Question: I understand that merchants are paying a 1 to 5 percent transaction fee every time I use my credit card. It would seem logical that I could offer cash to merchants and split the difference with them for that transaction fee yet with rare exception they look at me like I had two heads when I make the suggestion. How can I get a cash discount from groceries, big box stores and gas stations? Phil, Saint Louis, MO

Answer: I remember my Mom doing just what you suggest. A lot of times she would ask a merchant for a discount in return for paying cash.

But she only made the offer when she was shopping at a small local store and when she was dealing with the owner. Most employees at large retailers--especially grocery chains, gas stations, warehouse stores, and other large enterprises--don't have the authority to make that kind of deal. Still, you could try again with an owner of a small business near you where you're a trusted customer. Strike up a conversation and see what happens. Even if the owner says no I bet you'll end up learning more about the business, which is usually fascinating.

Follow Chris Farrell at @cfarrellecon