Special Report

10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Buy With a Credit Card

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6. Girl Scout cookies

Thin Mints or Samoas? Tagalongs or Trefoils? Or maybe a box or three of those new-fangled Toffee-tastics or Girl Scout S’mores? Each regional Girl Scout Council determines when to send their green-garbed junior salespeople out to the shopping malls and downtown byways of America to hawk boxes of these popular confections, but it is usually between January and April (though some start sales as early as September). Sales traditionally last for six to eight weeks, and during that period the cookies are also available online — via credit card — from Scouts who participate in the organization’s Digital Cookie program. Some streetside cookie sellers also take plastic now, via cellphone card readers.

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7. Gold bullion

Nothing says “I’m rich” like a safe full of gold bars, called ingots or bullion. Some purveyors of precious metals accept credit cards for bars of gold (also silver, copper, and platinum), though to lessen the chances of fraud, they may put a limit on the amount that may be charged. Gold prices fluctuate daily, but at this writing, it goes for about $1,200 per Troy ounce, the measurement used for precious metals (1 Troy ounce equals about 1.1 avoirdupois ounce). The kind of gold bar you are probably picturing, though, weighs about 400 Troy ounces, so would cost about $480,000. On the other hand, a 100-gram (3.22 Troy-ounce) gold bar , measuring 1.22 inches wide, 2.17 inches long, and 0.12 inch thick, costs about $3,500.

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8. A horse

It’s possible to get a horse for free, or for as little as a dollar — typically (though not always) an older “companion” horse or pet, not suited to be ridden strenuously. On the other hand, a thoroughbred named Fusaichi Pegasus, who won the 2000 Kentucky Derby, was sold later that year for a reported $70 million. The average price for a horse for personal use has been estimated at $1,000 to $8,000, depending on the breed and pedigree (to that, the horse-owner should figure on adding as much as $1,500 a month for boarding and up to $3,600 or so a year for health care, insurance, and equipment). While horse financing is available, and it is sometimes possible to buy a steed with a credit-card linked PayPal account, most horse dealers will not accept a conventional credit card. One exception is Premier Equine Auctions out of Dublin, Texas, which stages a number of auctions and horse sales annually and accepts Visa and MasterCard. The average price for the top 10 sellers at this summer’s sale is $9,480, so potential buyers would need a healthy credit limit.

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9. House calls

Remember those old Westerns where the town doc would hitch up his wagon, grab his black bag, and ride off through a snowstorm to deliver a baby or stanch a gunshot wound out at the ranch? That was the ultimate “house call.” But house calls, in which doctors came to you, rather than vice versa, were once common in America. In the 1930s, according to the website MD at Home, they accounted for about 40% of patient visits. By 1950, the figure had fallen to 10%, and by 1980, it was 1%. The practice declined likely because it came to be seen as an inefficient use of doctors’ time. Other reasons for the decline include the lack of laboratory facilities and the ability to handle emergency situations. There are signs that an updated version of the practice might be returning for everyone — but in the meantime, those who need house calls and can afford it, can pay for “concierge doctor” services, typically priced at $1,500 to $1,700 a year, with their credit cards. These programs typically offer patients 24/7 access to physicians via personal cell phone, reduced or even non-existent office wait times for appointments, and, yes, house calls.

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10. Lottery tickets

You’re paying for gas, some Red Bull, and a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos at the minimart counter, and on a whim decide to add a couple of Giant Jumbo Bucks lottery tickets to the tab. “Sorry,” says the woman behind the counter. “You’ll have to pay cash for those.” Some 44 states have government-run lotteries, and half of those allow credit card use for lottery ticket purchases. While some states have no restrictions, like Ohio which even has credit card-friendly self-service lottery ticket vending machines, other states, like Pennsylvania leave card acceptance to the discretion of the retailer.

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