February 25, 2003, 12:00 AM

Cash payment comes to Internet retailing

Payments processor AmeriNet and Western Union are rolling out a cash option for merchants to offer to their customers. Cash payment will cost $4 to $20, with the fee paid by the consumer, the merchant or both.


Cash payment is coming to e-retailing. Payments processor AmeriNet Inc. and Western Union Financial Services Inc., a division of First Data Corp., are rolling out a cash option for merchants to offer to their customers. “There’s a whole group of consumers who aren’t as financially attached to the banking system as others and who prefer cash as a way to manage their cash flow,” says Kevin Carroll, vice president of marketing of the commercial services division of Western Union.

While the size of the market is not known, since cash has not been an option until now, it’s not necessarily limited to lower-income consumers without credit cards, AmeriNet and Western Union say. For instance, a high-end golf equipment retailer that is an AmeriNet customer gets hundreds of check orders a week. “These are customers who surely have credit cards, yet they choose the check option for whatever reason,” says David Kerlin, CEO of AmeriNet. “We may find some surprising use here that we don’t know about. We know that retailers are missing a certain portion of business because some customers don’t want to pay with credit cards.”

Cash payment will be available for Internet, catalog and phone orders. A customer who selects cash payment will receive a record-locator number generated by AmeriNet to take to a Western Union office. The customer presents the number to a clerk who looks up the record and tells the customer the exact amount. After payment, the clerk sends notification to AmeriNet that the order has been paid. AmeriNet then sends the order to the fulfillment center.

Cash transactions will cost about $4 for low-value transactions and up to about $20 for transactions of about $1,000. The merchant will have the option of charging the fee to the customer, paying the fee itself or splitting it with the customer.

Western Union believes that cash payment will be more effective for merchants than traditional C.O.D. payments since as many as 40% of C.O.D. orders are refused at the time of delivery, Carroll says. Customers who wish to pay by cash can look up Western Union locations at WesternUnion.com or by calling an 800 number.


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