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TheStreet Open House

10 Weird Ways to Use Your Credit Card

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Certain transactions traditionally thought to be reserved for cash only are now available on credit cards, thanks largely to technological advancements. Several companies, including Square, Intuit (INTU) and, most recently, PayPal, have introduced small credit card readers that attach to smartphones, then link to an app so small merchants or individuals can take credit and debit cards just like any other business.

" These readers are changing the landscape a bit," says Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research with CreditCards.com. "It's really lowering the barrier to entry."

Politicians have long accepted credit card donations via their campaign Web site, but thanks to plastic card readers they can accept funds on the trail too.

Woolsey adds that electronic payments for public services can also save states and municipalities time and money, which has led to an increased adoption of plastic. Read on to find out what types of unexpected items you can now charge to your favorite credit card.

Make a donation to a Salvation Army kettle
Square enabled the Salvation Army to accept credit card donations at its kettles this past holiday season, allowing donators to swipe their cards on readers attached to Android phones donated to bell ringers by Sprint (S).

The option was available only in select markets, including New York, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco. There's no official word on whether the nonprofit plans on expanding the option in 2012, though it did announce in January that the technology (it also introduced online kettles that accepted donations via plastic) led to a fundraising record of $147.6 million last year.

Pay your library fees
Many libraries, including the Los Angeles Public Library, San Francisco Public Library and New York Public Library, allow you to pay fines and late fees online with a debit or credit card. But residents of Columbus, Ga., recently were given the option to charge their library fees to their Visa (V) or MasterCard (MA) in person.

Buy Girl Scout cookies
The Girl Scouts announced in late February that troops in northeast Ohio would be ringing up cookie sales by accepting credit cards on their mobile phones with GoPayment, another app, plus a card reader that lets smartphone owners accept credit cards.

"We've lost out on sales in the past because many potential cookie customers did not carry cash," said Marianne Love, director of business services for Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, in a press release.

Intuit, the company behind the GoPayment app, offered to help Girl Scout council leaders across the U.S. introduce cookie-selling credit card capabilities.

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