Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you whip out that plastic — new rules went into effect last week that allow stores to charge customers for using their credit cards. These fees, ranging from 1.5 to 4%, could certainly add up. A 4% fee on a family of four’s average grocery bill, for instance, adds up to a whopping $500 extra per year.
So what’s this fee all about? Well, each time you swipe your credit card, the merchant must pay a percentage to the credit card issuers like Visa and Mastercard. Last year, an antitrust settlement between merchants and credit card issuers gave merchants the option to forward that fee onto the consumer.
As terrible as this all sounds, though, there are ways to avoid paying these fees. Check out the next page for tips.
Important Facts about the New Fees
1. Pay with Your Debit Card. It may have a credit card logo, but debit card users don’t fall under these new rules. Neither, of course, will cash users.
2. Look for Signage. Merchants will be required to post signs, either at the front of the store or at the checkout counter, letting customers know that they will be charged. Online shoppers will be warned if they are being charged, too. Look on the merchant’s homepage.
3. These Fees are Illegal in Some States. Are you a resident of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, or Texas? You’re in luck — you can’t be charged the extra fees!
4. American Express Cardholders Aren’t Affected. The issuer already doesn’t allow merchants to pass on the fee to customers.
5. It’s Unclear How Widespread These Fees Will Become. Because not every retailer will charge credit card users, many large stores will be disinclined to charge their customers. Most likely, the retailers that will charge these fees will be small businesses. But don’t stop supporting your favorite mom-and-pop shop: use cash or debit!
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