Beginning January 27, 2013, merchants who accept a credit card for payment may add a ‘checkout fee’ to the purchase transaction. The ‘checkout fee’ is a surcharge that is now allowed for merchants accepting a credit card for payment. Please note that this is not a debit card transaction event. The following information is provided by Consumer Action.org.
New fees may be coming to a cash register near you
Soon you could start seeing a new retailer surcharge, or “checkout fee,” when you use your credit card to buy goods and services. A recent court settlement between retailers and the payments industry allows retailers to pass their credit card acceptance costs onto consumers in the form of a new fee. Not all merchants will charge this fee—it’s up to individual business owner. Make sure you know your rights – and the merchant’s responsibilities – before paying a fee to use your credit card!
Where did credit card checkout fees come from?
In July 2012, a settlement was reached between retailers, nine major banks and Visa and MasterCard in a legal case over electronic payment costs. As part of the settlement, retailers now have the option to charge a checkout fee when you use your credit card. You need to know that there are important consumer protections built into the settlement.
What are your rights and retailers’ responsibilities?
Checkout fees are only permitted on credit and charge cards, NOT debit cards. Checkout fees are illegal and, therefore, not allowed in 10 states. The laws of each state would determine whether it would be legal for companies based in other states to charge residents of its state. Residents of these states who encounter retailer checkout fees can report them to the state attorney general. These states include: California; Colorado; Connecticut; Florida; Kansas; Maine; Massachusetts; New York; Oklahoma; Texas. (South Carolina is NOT on this list)
Find contact information for your state attorney general at the National Association of Attorneys General website.
Retailers only are allowed to charge a fee that is equivalent to what they pay to accept the card, which in the U.S. is typically between 1.5% and 3% of the total purchase.
To avoid surprising consumers with the new fee, retailers must provide “clear disclosures” (such as signage) of any checkout fees:
· At the store entrance
· At the point of sale terminal
· On their homepage if it is an online merchant
· On the consumer’s receipt
The disclosure on the receipt must list the amount of the checkout fee, the fact that the merchant is imposing the charge and that the fee is not greater than what it costs the retailer to accept credit and charge cards.
Checkout fees can vary for different kinds of cards (such as rewards cards or premier cards) so be sure to ask your retailer in advance if different surcharges apply and choose your payment card accordingly.
What can you do about checkout fees?
Be aware that while checkout fees are now allowed, retailers are not required to charge you extra for using a credit or charge card.
Know your rights—there are rules in place to make sure merchants don’t surprise you with a fee at the last minute trying to hide the fee, etc.
Request a discount—if you believe the cost of processing card payments has already been built into the price you’re paying, you can aske the merchant for a discount if it also charges you a checkout fee.
Shop around—avoid checkout fees altogether by supporting merchants and retailers that don’t charge a fee for using credit or charge cards.
Learn how Greenville Federal Credit Union’s Debit and VISA cards can help you save money, earn rewards and avoid fees.
Fri, February 1, 2013
by Catherine James filed under