If you like to pay with plastic at your local department store or independent retailer, get ready: you may be subject to new credit card fees up to 4% of your transaction. A recent legal battle between credit card companies and a group of retailers has ended, and the result is that in order to offset high card transaction and processing fees, retailers can pass the buck along to consumers.
The settlement was actually reached last summer, but the new transaction fee rules take effect last week. A couple of qualifiers: The new rules apply only to Visa and Mastercard (not American Express or Discover, which ironically have higher transaction fees than others,) they only apply to credit and charge transactions, not debit, and they only apply here in the United States (in 40 out of 50 states. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas are excluded because they have laws prohibiting credit card surcharges.)
Most large retailers will probably eat the cost rather than charge you a fee, but smaller stores, chains, and independent shops may end up charging transaction fees in order to offset high Visa and Mastercard processing costs. Many of these stores already make it clear you can only use your card if you purchase a minimum limit. Often $5 purchasing min, to use your Visa/Mastercard.
The new rules allow retailers to charge consumers a fee equal to their own interchange fee, meaning anywhere between 1.5% to 4% of the transaction. They can’t blindly tack it on though: they have to notify you in some way, so keep an eye out for new signs at checkout or on the store door to let you know of the change. Online merchants are required to notify you of the fee before you check out.
If you’re worried your favorite main street shop is going to start adding fees, ask them. Then make the decision whether you’re willing to pay the fee to support a small business. In some cases it’s worth it, and the only way that small business can afford to process plastic. However, don’t expect to walk into your local retailer and suddenly see signs, the doors are open, but no one knows which companies will take advantage of it at this point. There may be a few here or there, but many large chains are unhappy with the settlement entirely. Large retail chains hate the new agreement and know their customers are price sensitive. They’d rather negotiate with credit card companies than pass along the fees, so this isn’t over yet. Hit the link below to read more about the new rules.