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American won’t let you pay with cash at Miami’s airport anymore. Here’s how it’ll work

American Airlines is moving to a cashless model for additional fees at Miami International Airport, a move it hopes will speed up the check-in process. It’s installing machines that will convert cash to debit cards.
American Airlines is moving to a cashless model for additional fees at Miami International Airport, a move it hopes will speed up the check-in process. It’s installing machines that will convert cash to debit cards. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

If you’re traveling on American Airlines from Miami International Airport, leave the cash at home.

The leading airline is moving to a cashless model at MIA, meaning that any transactions for additional fees, such as checked bags or overweight bags, will have to be made with credit or debit cards. The change is effective on Thursday.

The airline already has transitioned to cashless airport environments in more than 50 locations, said American Airlines spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello, including in New York’s John K. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Aran Coello said the move will help speed up the check-in process because cash transactions take longer then debit/credit transactions.

Moving away from cash allows American to assist customers more efficiently. It also reduces the complexity of work for our agents who will no longer have to worry about handling cash, find exact change or close out a cash drawer at the end of the day.

Alexis Aran Coello, American Airlines spokeswoman

“Moving away from cash allows American to assist customers more efficiently. It also reduces the complexity of work for our agents who will no longer have to worry about handling cash, find exact change or close out a cash drawer at the end of the day,” Aran Coello said in a statement. “In general, our ticket counter agents support the transition to a cashless environment.”

But what if you only have cash?

KIS front
ReadyStation kiosks will convert cash to Visa debit cards that can be used to pay for American Airlines fees. There will be 11 kiosks installed at MIA for American passengers. Ready Credit

American is partnering with Ready Credit, a private company that will convert cash into debit cards via 11 kiosks.

American’s ReadyStations, which are already installed at the airport, work like reverse ATMs. The machines, with English and Spanish capabilities, convert cash into prepaid Visa debit cards with a value of up to $1,000. Agents will be onsite to help passengers who need assistance.

A fee of $5 is tacked on to each transaction regardless of how much is added to a card; the fee is charged by Ready Credit, not American. The additional fee may disproportionally affect foreign travelers who choose to bring cash to the U.S. because of foreign transaction fees imposed on credit cards in their countries of origin.

Still, Visa adds just a 1.5 percent foreign transaction fee to the Ready Credit debit cards when they are used outside the United States, which is slightly lower than the average fee of just under 2 percent that is typically imposed by credit cards, according to WalletHub.

Aran Coello said foreign passengers have taken advantage of the marginally lower fee on the debit cards.

A $5 transaction fee is tacked on to every ReadyStation cash conversion. There is a 1.5 conversion fee for foreign currencies.

“We are mindful of the impact this may have on travelers from international destinations,” she said. “However, we have noticed that many travelers who are returning to a country where [U.S. dollars] is not the accepted currency will often add more funds to their cards as it is a cost effective method of converting [U.S. dollars] to other currencies.”

American is not the first airline to go cashless at MIA. United Airlines has two ReadyStation kiosks at the airport since it converted to cashless in the last three years. At Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, there are 11 Ready Stations serving United Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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