The High Cost of Taking Your Money

Transaction costs to merchants vary wildly, depending on how you pay

1 min read
The High Cost of Taking Your Money

Whether you pay for a bag of groceries by cash, check, credit card, or debit card may seem to be just a matter of convenience. But the cost to you is nothing like the cost to the seller, says Allan Shampine, senior vice president of the Chicago financial consulting firm Compass Lexecon. “If it’s a mom-and-pop store and you get out your credit card, the merchant is probably groaning inside: ‘He comes here all the time. I really wish he’d pay with cash!’ ”

In January, Shampine published a survey of 11 studies from the past 21 years of the actual costs of various payment methods. Shampine was surprised to discover that estimated costs of cash versus credit cards versus debit cards or checks vary so widely that only a fuzzy picture emerges.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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