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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Avista to end $3.50 transaction charge in October

Avista Utilities will eliminate a $3.50 transaction fee on debit and credit card payments in October, following approval this week by state regulators.

The Spokane-based utility doesn’t profit from the fees, which are paid to a third-party vendor, but the charge has been a source of frustration to residential customers. About 5 percent of the utility’s bills are collected through debit or credit card payments, and that’s expected to grow to 15 percent within two years.

If Avista pays the fees rather than the customers, the utility will incur much lower fees through payment networks such as VISA and MasterCard. Eventually, those fees will be spread out among all Avista customers, where they would cost about 12 cents per month on a typical residential gas and electric bill, utility officials said.

Avista will defer collecting the costs for about 21 months, while the company gets a more precise handle on program charges. The expected cost is around $1 million over that time, which will be included in future utility rate requests.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission voted Thursday to approve Avista’s plan for ending the $3.50 transaction fee.