In the old days, paying with cash was one of the quickest ways to get a deal.

But in the 1980s, when using plastic became more common, the cash advantage diminished to some degree. Now, with economic conditions less than stellar, you might want to dust off that old money clip.

Although it won’t work in every situation, offering to pay cash can get you a discount on some purchases. Here are a three times when leaving your credit card in your wallet could spell savings.

1. Shopping in Small Businesses
Merchants have to pay a service charge to credit card companies for every transaction they process. For large retailers, this service charge is smaller because they get volume discounts. Small businesses can end up paying 4 to 5% of the total transaction back to the credit company. To avoid this fee, many smaller merchants, such as resale shops, antique dealers and boutique stores, are willing to pass on their savings to you. They may not always volunteer, however. You have to ask for it. What’s the worst they could say? "No."

2. Paying for Gas
Gas station owners are also small businesspeople. They also have to pay a fee for credit card transactions. When gas prices are high and demand is down for gas, gas stations work hard to get your business. Rising gas prices also trigger rising credit card fees. The past year saw many gas stations offering cash discounts on their marquees. The discounts were not high, only about three to eight cents per gallon. These small margins, however, can make a significant difference in the long run and translate into more business. Wouldn’t you choose the gas station where gas was five cents cheaper than the one across the street?

3. Service Contractors
Car repair shops and home improvement contractors also give cash discounts on occasion. Service workers are used to negotiating prices, and avoiding credit card fees is as good a reason as any to negotiate. A phrase like “How much if I pay with cash?” can be as good as a coupon in some service industries.

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