Beginning Sunday, Jan. 27, merchants will be permitted to charge a processing fee to customers paying for purchases with credit cards. The new fee is part of a $7.2 billion settlement reached in 2012 between merchants and credit card companies.
The amount of the fee will vary, depending on how much the individual merchant pays in processing fees, but the legal limit of the surcharge is four percent of a purchase amount.
The fee is not mandatory, and experts expect that the number of companies exercising their right will be small, at least for now, according to Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at www.Credit.com. The fee is more likely to be charged by smaller merchants who feel the pinch of fees charged to them by credit card companies.
Retailers who plan to enforce the fee are required by law to post notices at check-out stations informing customers of the charge, similar to how banks charge non-customers to use their ATM machines. Online merchants are also required to post a notice.
Not every state allows merchants to charge a credit card processing fee. Shoppers in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas will not have to pay the additional charge. Debit cards and American Express were also excluded from the settlement contract.
In an interview with www.abc.news.com, Detweiler recommends letting merchants know if you object to the new charge. “If enough consumers complain, a merchant will fear losing business and won’t choose to pass the charge along. I don’t think people are going to like being penalized for paying the way they want to pay.” She also suggests carrying a debit card or cash so you won’t need to use your credit card if the merchant is enforcing the new fees.