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Bell County Making Swipe At Credit Access

By Michelle Guffey
Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – Cash is king, or at least it used to be. Nowadays, credit cards seem to be the royalty of choice when it comes to spending.

Popular fast-food places accept them, as well as local automatic carwashes. At some post offices, people can use their debit or credit card to buy a book of stamps from the machine in the lobby instead of standing in line.

Even Bell County has caught on that the best way to collect fees and fines owed
to it is to offer residents the option of paying by credit card.

This past April, the county commissioners approved a contract with EZ Access, acting as a third party, to provide credit card services to the county and neatly falling in line with the national trend of buy now, pay later.

"We've had a lot of requests over the years to accept credit cards," Commissioner John Fisher said at Monday's commissioners' meeting.

On June 27, the tax assessor's office in Belton began accepting credit card payments with other departments following suit.

"All of our customers using it, love it," said Sharon Long, the county tax assessor. "We haven't heard anything negative."

The tax assessor's offices in Belton, Killeen, Fort Hood and Temple have processed 1,000 transactions totaling approximately $100,000 since June 27.

Other departments – county clerk, adult probation, hot checks, and three justices of the peace – began offering the service on July 28, collecting 30 payments totaling about $6,000.

"Both (justices of the peace) in Temple are looking at this as a way to take care of outstanding fees," Commissioner Richard Cortese said. "Hopefully, this will cut down on returned checks."

Individuals have the option of paying with their credit card – MasterCard, Visa or Discover – in person or by paying over the phone.

Mark Kenneth with FusionBridge said that the justice of the peace offices in Killeen are evaluating whether to accept payments over the phone, but will accept them in person.

At this time, customers do not have the ability to make payments from home via the Web site.

"At a later time, we'll make the Web site available to the customer," Kenneth said, explaining that future plans will allow people to pay fines and fees from their home computers.

Customers are assessed a $3 convenience fee per $100 of the transaction by the Web site provider. The fee does not go to Bell County. If the transaction is more than $500, the convenience fee is 3 percent of the fee or fine.

Individuals also can use their debit cards as long as the cards have the MasterCard or Visa logo.

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