We get a lot of frequent flyer miles every year paying fees to the USPTO and WIPO by credit card. The miles that we get are chicken feed compared with the frequent flyer miles that the really big filers — the Oblons and Sughrues of the world — may receive in this way.
Paying a fee by credit card offers the further benefit that we can “float” the cost for a month, and hopefully the client’s payment of its bill will happen promptly enough that we can pay the credit card bill in full using the money that just came in from the client.
Having said this, we note that the USPTO keeps tinkering with its credit-card payment system in ways that make it harder and harder to pay by credit card. Just today USPTO announced another change.
In the old days you could use a credit card to top up your USPTO deposit account. This was very convenient. Then USPTO cut this off.
Then the USPTO imposed a limit on the amount of money that could be charged on a particular credit card in a single day. That limit was a penny less than $100K. What we did at that point was to make sure that we had a couple of credit cards lined up so that when one card got used up on a busy day of filing patent applications, we could move on to the next card.
Then the USPTO cut that limit in half, to a penny less than $50K. We thus had to keep three or four credit cards lined up so that we could move to a third or fourth card over the course of a day.
Now today comes the most recent cutback, cutting that limit in half again, to a penny less than $25K. Here’s the text of USPTO’s announcement of earlier today:
The maximum daily limit per credit card account is currently $49,999.99. Effective June 1, 2015, the daily limit per credit card account will be lowered to $24,999.99. Debit cards will continue to have no daily limit.
All credit card and debit card payments are processed through the Department of the Treasury’s Pay.gov system. The new daily limit for credit cards will automatically be enforced through the Pay.gov system. If cardholders exceed the daily limit, a message will indicate that the maximum daily limit has been reached and the payment will be rejected.
Existing alternatives for submitting large dollar payments are deposit account and electronic funds transfer (EFT) over the USPTO website.
That last sentence is what gets me. Yes I guess it’s true that a deposit account could be considered to be an alternative, as could the use of EFT. But those mechanisms do not earn frequent flyer miles. And they are no help at all toward “floating” the government fees.
Anyway although the USPTO announcement is silent on this point, clearly one of the “existing alternatives for submitting large dollar payments” is the use of a second or third or fourth credit card. For example American Express will give us as many additional cards as we wish, each with its own card number, all tied to the same main credit card.
(Oh and for the readers who worry about the ethics of keeping the frequent flyer miles for ourselves, we put into our client retainer letter that the client gets to pick — they can give us their credit card to use to pay fees, in which they get the frequent flyer miles. Or they can decline to give us their credit card in which case we will use our credit card and get the miles.)