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Nickels & Dimes: Go Paperless or Pay More

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Fees for getting a paper copy of your records have taken off.

Spirit Airlines announced last week that effective Nov. 1, it will begin charging a $5 fee to have a boarding pass printed by an agent at the airport. Next June, it will add a $1 fee for printing one at the airport kiosk. (A spokeswoman for the airline says the carrier plans to reduce fares by $5 to counterbalance the new charge.) Although a handful of European carriers charge similar fees, Spirit is the first U.S. airline to do so.

But consumers have become more familiar with going paperless as a condition to avoiding fees or grabbing deals as businesses — and banks in particular — look to cut their costs. Alliance Data Systems, which handles credit card business for Ann Taylor, Victoria’s Secret and other big chains, added a $1 monthly fee last year to receive printed statements. Toll payment service E-ZPass charges $6 per year, while California insurer Anthem Blue Cross tacks on $2 per month. Going paperless is also typically a requirement to get the top interest rates of up to 6% in reward-checking accounts.

“Certainly there are substantial costs associated with printing and delivery of anything,” says Heather Honea, professor of marketing at San Diego State University. Sending consumers paper statements can run 25 times as much as preparing and sending them via email. “To the extent that they can avoid those costs, they’ll do it,” she says. Airlines are likely to be slower than banks to adopt a paperless-or-pay-more stance, simply because your boarding pass serves as more than a record to file away — you need to bring it with you to get on the plane.

“I don’t think anyone is going to copy Spirit immediately,” says George Hobica, the founder of AirfareWatchdog.com. But airlines have already made a start by offering print-at-home passes and ones downloadable to a mobile phone.  “Once that system is in place and people are confident in it, you’ll start to see them phase out paper and add fees,” Honea says.

As for Spirit, avoiding the fee is simple for those with a home printer, less so for those without. The airline does not currently offer the option to download your boarding pass to a mobile phone, and only waives the fee in airports where there are no kiosks. In the end, those who want paper have the same choice as those faced with paper bank fees: “People can vote with their feet, and do business elsewhere,” Hobica says.

Nickels and Dimes will keep tabs on new and rising fees and surcharges eating into your bottom line. Have one to share? Email kelli.grant@dowjones.com.

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    • Mass Morgan had close to the same number of hosers as NE last year. It is the 3rd largest Morgan show in the world. It is much larger than all the Regional shows except NE.BTW, here’s some data on attendance at our Regional Morgan Shows:NE- high 831 in07 to low of 600 last year total from 01 thru 10 = 7159.NY high 376 in 09 low 226 in 03 total from 01 thru 10 = 3323Gold Cup high 370 in 01 and low of 234 in 09 total 10-10 = 2875Citrus Cup high 155 in 03 low 78 in 10 total of 1184 hosers from 01 thru 10Jubilee high 347 in 07 and low 226 in 10 total 01 thru 10 = 2902.Wheat State high 165-01 low 108 in 07 total 01 thru 10 = 1178 04 nos are missingMorgan Medallion high 363 in 02 ; low 198 in 10 total 10 thru 10=2101.Far West high 322 in 01 and 02 low 116 in 10 totals 01 thru 10 = 2324Circle J high 217 in 01 and low 98 in 10 totals 01 thru 10 = 1515.So. States high 247 in 08 and low 200 in 06 and 10 total 01 thru 10 = 2223.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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