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updated: 7/20/2011 4:48 PM

Round Lake Beach to use credit card for rewards

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The next time Round Lake Beach buys road salt, it could get reward points in return.

The same goes for construction or electrical equipment or a range of other goods, as the village tries something different in its purchasing procedures.

Depending on the vendor, the village would compile reward points by using an American Express card to pay for purchases.

The points, with a dollar value roughly equivalent to 1 percent of the purchase in turn would be used to buy other items as a way of saving a few bucks on capital expenditures.

"It could be computers, office equipment, things like that," said Brian Gosnell, finance director.

Members of the village board's finance committee on Monday gave the green light and it soon will be put into practice. No action is required by the full village board.

An analysis by Gosnell showed the village could have earned the equivalent of $3,400 to $4,900, depending on the vendor, had the reward card been used during the last fiscal year. The village could earn $3,000 to $5,000 in points in a given year, he estimated.

"That's not much but every little bit helps," he said. "It's something I think private industry has done pretty well."

There is a $55 card fee but no other charges for the points program, he added.

Information provided to the committee showed Antioch, Lake Zurich and Pleasant Prairie, Wis., have participated in the program.

"It's kind of a no brainer since it doesn't cost us anything," said Al Zochowski, Lake Zurich's finance director.

The village targeted the points for travel-related expenses, such as airfare and hotels, he said.

"In the last three years, we've accumulated almost a million points. We haven't had a lot of travel."

In each of the three years it has participated, the village has used the card to pay for about $350,000 in items. About 20 percent of village vendors accept American Express, Zochowski said.

Gosnell said the rewards program will be maintained and managed in the finance department and cards will not be given to individual employees.

Instead of writing a check to individual departments for purchases, the credit card would be used to pay the vendor. An electronic payment would be sent to American Express every billing cycle for the total charged.

"It's really just a different way to pay the bills," he said.

In Lake Zurich, there recently was almost a chance to use some of the points but a convention in San Antonio for government finance officers required cash.

"We didn't have the $1,500 for the registration so I didn't go," Zochowski said.