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Porn, medical marijuana among credit card restrictions

Wednesday - 6/1/2011, 12:01pm  ET

CreditCards2430.jpg
So far there has been little pressure on the credit card companies to change their policies. (AP)

UNDATED - Credit cards can be used to purchase just about anything these days. Or can they?

American Express now bans customers from using credit cards to buy pornography online, Smartmoney.com reports. It also restricts people from buying medical marijuana in the 16 states where the practice is legal.

Visa and Mastercard allow both, but all three major credit card companies prohibit purchasing gambling chips, even in legal casinos. Patrons have the option of using their cards to receive cash advances at a casino ATM, however.

The companies say they are merely protecting themselves against legal risk, yet opponents say these policies infringe on consumers' rights and are inconvenient to merchants.

"You ought to be able to use a credit card for any legal purchase," John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog tells Smartmoney. "It seems to me that credit card companies are imposing their moral values on the world."

American Express, the most conservative of the corporations, says that it has a strict policy of following federal, not state, law. Its ban on porn, on the other hand, helps to protect against child pornography.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)