Payment etiquette 101: Points, cash and Brad Pitt

May 27, 2021

The way we pay and get paid is changing fast — from checkout technology and e-commerce security to person-to-person transaction etiquette, it’s hard to keep up. Our advice columnist shares her tips on navigating the new world of payments.

I use my credit cards plenty, but I’ve never played the points game. It has always seemed so complicated, so my points expire unless I grasp at offers like a year’s subscription to “Trout Today!” Any recommendations?

Hey, don’t knock my favorite magazine! The recipe section alone is worth a flight to Tahiti. It’s actually never been easier to redeem points, but if you need an additional incentive, why don’t you consider donating your points to a favorite charity? Your bank or airline is likely to have a feature that allows you to donate points or miles to a worthy cause, although the value of points may vary. Mastercard’s Pay With Rewards feature on your bank’s app allows you to use your points to plant trees as part of our Priceless Planet Coalition. One caveat: While heartwarming, the donations are not tax-deductible. But I get the feeling you’re not the type of person who itemizes anyway.

I run a food stall, and it has always been a cash-only business. With more customers going digital — literally, one guy told me he hadn’t touched a bank note since COVID-19 hit — I know I need to get with the times. But I don’t know if it’s worth the hassle of investing in a terminal. Are there any alternatives?

It’s been so long since I’ve used an ATM that I’ve forgotten my PIN. Wait – 1234. Phew! But to answer your question, yes, there’s another option, and you might already have it in the palm of your hand. You can turn any Android smartphone or tablet into an acceptance device thanks to cloud-based tap-on-phone technology. Customers simply tap their contactless card or mobile wallet against your device to make a payment. Not only will it allow you to deliver the experience that more of your customers expect, but you can use it to improve your operations with faster checkout and simpler accounting. Still need convincing? A recent consumer global survey by Mastercard showed that six in 10 people say they avoid merchants that don’t accept digital payments of any kind. 

I’ve met the man of my dreams. He’s accomplished, charming and so devoted to his ailing mother. Plus, he looks just like Brad Pitt in “Legends of the Fall.” Like, eerily so. The only problem is, I haven’t been able to meet him because of the pandemic. Okay, there’s another problem. He’s asking me to lend him some money while he’s busy taking care of his mother. Should I do it?

I hate to tell you, but it sounds like Brad is too good to be true. He may be pulling a romance scam on you, which is increasingly common during COVID when we’re thirsting for connections. Here are a few hallmarks of this type of scam. Has he moved your conversations off the dating site on which you met to a private chat? Is he encouraging you to keep your romance a secret from your family and friends? Is he curious about every detail of your life but withholding details of his own? It’s OK to say no — and if he tries to rush you or manipulate you, you’re probably being conned. This kind of betrayal can be emotionally detrimental and financially devastating — you may be liable if you authorized any payments or transfers of money. A guy who looks like Brad Pitt in “12 Monkeys” is probably a safer bet.