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8 unexpected places you can use your credit card

By Gina Roberts-Grey, CardRatings contributor
Updated, May 21, 2015

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unexpected places to use credit cardsWhen the weekend comes and you're shopping in town, poking around a flea market or going to church, you used to need cash. At the flea or farmers' market you had to hit up the on-site ATM (and pay those exorbitant service fees) or miss out on a cool find if the vendor wouldn't accept a personal check.

But not anymore.

Plenty of vendors and services now accept credit cards, making it a breeze to shop, philanthropize, appease a sweet tooth and even commute to work.

Here's a look at some unexpected places you no longer need to worry about needing a handful of dead presidents.

use credit cards at the farmers marketPaying for your vine-ripened, organic fruits and veggies just got easier.

Farmers markets across the country are looking to increase sales through credit card processing via their iPhones, BlackBerrys and Droids.

"Accepting credit cards increased sales by about 30 percent," says Scott Peterson, a Syracuse, N.Y., farmers' market vendor. "Before we accepted them, many costumers passed us by because they don't carry cash."

Peterson says he can process debit and credit card payments right on his cell phone in a matter of a minute or two, without a phone line or credit card terminal. "It's a necessary convenience and a service to our customers," he says.

use credit cards at churchWhether you want to make a one-time offering or set up recurring tithe contributions, chances are your place of worship takes plastic.

Not wanting to miss out on generous benefactors who never seem to have cash in their pockets, some churches and synagogues have turned to companies like Holy Processing, which sets up places of worship with credit card processing capability, in order to accept donations on plastic.

"I'm glad my church offers this because I can make a contribution and accumulate reward points at the same time," says Charles Sweeney of Los Angeles. "I pay my bill off every month so the reward points are a real bonus."

use credit cards for girl scout cookiesGot a hankering for a Thin Mint? Jonesing for a Samoa? Don't worry if you don't have $3.50 in cash to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies or a tub of golden delicious Boy Scout popcorn.

Now the little badge-seeking cherub outside your supermarket takes plastic.

Some Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops located in the New York City area, as well as in Atlanta, Chicago, Ohio and other regions, have portable hand-held card readers so you can swipe your plastic and satisfy your urge for caramel corn or cookies.

use credit cards at flea marketsAfter you've haggled over the price, you can pay for your one-of-a-kind treasure with your credit card.

Relying on cash-only customers saw sales plummet as much as 60 percent, says veteran vendor Diana Ryan of Antioch, Ill. "A lot of lookers and browsers would stumble upon something they couldn't live without, but didn't have cash, and we don't accept checks because they bounce more often than not."

Credit cards give flea market vendors the peace of mind that personal checks can't. "Once we receive an authentication code, I know we'll be paid. That's not the case with checks," says Ryan.

use credit cards on the subwayThe Big Apple doesn't have a lock on this one. Chicago, Washington, D.C. and other cities let public transportation riders swipe credit cards or slide them into automated teller machines to load funds onto fare cards. So no more digging in your pockets for bus fare or to hop on the subway.

use credit cards for parking metersNo need to be disheartened when the only available parking spot within a 10-block radius comes with a parking meter standing proudly beside it--and you've got no change.

These days, once you finally find a spot to park on a crowded city street, your credit card can help make sure a meter maid doesn't slap a ticket on your windshield.

ATM-style meters from Los Angeles to Charleston, S.C., and many cities in between accept debit and credit cards along with cash. Many meters also use SMS to send a message to your cell phone when your time is about to expire.

use credit cards at tollboothsPlanning a road trip? You won't need to tote along sacks of coins just to toss into toll booth baskets on your family vacation or your daily commute to work or school.

States like Ohio, New York, Michigan, Indiana and many others will happily accept plastic payment so you can ride along their roads.

use credit cards in vending machinesSome travelers have to settle for getting nothing more than a can of soda from a hotel vending machine. But visitors to Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace Hotel can purchase gold merely by swiping a credit card.

Ranging from gold coins to 24-carat gold bars in 1-, 5- and 10-gram weights, the decked-out gold-leafed "Gold to Go" vending machine happily accepts your debit or credit card as payment for a souvenir more glamorous than a postcard.

But a trip to the Middle East isn't necessary if you need a little glitz: Gold vending machines that accept credit cards have already popped up in Boca Raton, Fla., and the glitz capital of the western world, Las Vegas.

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