To encourage Kansans to renew their vehicle registrations online and perhaps ease the crunch at county treasurer’s offices across the state, the Kansas Division of Motor Vehicles has decided for the next year to waive the credit card and electronic check fees usually associated with online transactions.
Although DMV officials say the long lines at some treasurer’s offices are only a temporary problem, this seems a perfect opportunity to assess the feasibility of permanently waiving those extra fees.
The division has added a 2.5 percent charge when people pay with credit cards and a flat $3 fee for using an electronic check. There is no extra charge for people who pay by cash or check either in person or by mail.
Online renewal is available for any vehicle that has previously been registered at the same address and is covered by one of the many insurance companies on the state’s registry. Renewing online certainly is convenient for many people. However, only about 11 percent of the 2.4 million vehicles registered last year were online renewals.
It’s true that credit card companies charge the state for registration transactions, and a 2.5 percent fee probably isn’t a great deterrent for many residents. However, if state officials see a significant increase in the number of people registering vehicles online in the coming year, they would have to wonder if the credit card and check fees are a factor.
If someone is paying $400 to register a vehicle, the credit card fee would add $10 to the total. Multiplied over two or more cars in a family, that amount starts to add up and may provide some small deterrent to online registration.
What the state needs to consider is whether the administrative efficiency of handling registrations online saves it enough money to offset whatever money is lost by waiving the credit card and electronic check fees. Added customer convenience, both for those who use the online system and those who don’t, also should be part of the calculation.
After months of computer problems, shortened hours and long lines, the state’s vehicle registration system could use some good PR. Taking a look at eliminating extra fees for online registration might be a step in that direction.