Business
4:37 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Beware of Credit Card Checkout Fees

Credit cards can be a safety net in emergency situations, give rewards for using them and help build credit. But if you pay with plastic for your purchase, you may want to pay attention. That’s because swiping your credit card at the checkout counter could result in a new surcharge.

Credit by 401(K) 2013 via Flickr

Over the last few years, credit card companies and banks have been fighting with retail merchants over costs related to the use of credit cards.

Merchants pay credit card companies a processing fee each time a customer uses a credit card. Historically, credit card companies and large banks that issue cards prohibited merchants from passing that cost directly on to customers in the form of an extra fee.  But some retailers took the card companies to court.

Last summer, a settlement agreement was made with several major banks, including Visa and MasterCard. N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper explains.

“Merchants can pass on to the consumer a surcharge of anywhere between 1.5 percent and four percent of the purchase price, not including the sales tax. This is something that consumers need to watch out for,” says Cooper.

Cooper says the fee does not apply to debit cards or American Express cards. And it will still be illegal to charge the new fee in 10 states, including California, New York and Texas.

He says retailers are required to notify you if they charge the fee before you make a purchase.

“Merchants are required to put a notice at the entrance to their store and at the checkout register and print it on your receipt. They also have to notify you before you make a credit card purchase online that they are going to charge the surcharge fee,” says Cooper.

Cooper says so far, many merchants in North Carolina don't appear to be rushing to impose the surcharge.

“It is important for consumers to keep an eye out and use the power of their purse to not to deal with merchants who are charging this,” says Cooper.

He says if you feel you have been charged the fee without being notified, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by phone or file a complaint online.