January 25, 2012
Credit card users could be paying so-called 'checkout fees' soon
We all use credit cards to shop. They can get us cash back and rewards and they help us build credit.
But the next time you swipe your card at the checkout, you could get hit with a brand new fee.
Historically, retailers haven't been allowed to charge you for buying something with a credit card, as opposed to using cash or debit. But all that could change.
Consumer advocates are warning that, starting this Sunday, Jan. 27, merchants will be allowed to charge you up to 4 percent extra, just for using your credit card.
Consumer Action and ConsumerWorld.com want you to be on alert for the new, so-called checkout fees if you ever pay with a credit card.
This is all the result of a lawsuit settlement between retailers and several major banks, plus Visa and Mastercard, according to Consumer Action. The lawsuit was settled and preliminarily approved by a judge.
When you pay with a credit card, it costs a store or website money to process the transaction. As part of the settlement of the lawsuit, retailers will now be allowed to pass those costs on to customers like you, Consumer Action reports.
They're usually between 1.5 and 3 percent, but they can be up to 4 percent, according to Consumer World.
Most retailers probably won't want to impose extra charges that will turn customers away from them, but consumer advocates worry the charges will become the norm after some time.
Here's what you can do: Retailers will be required to post the surcharge clearly in their stores and on their websites if they're going to charge it. Watch out for those notifications.
Consumer World reports that retailers will have to post a notice at the store's entrance and at the register. Online sellers have to disclose that the surcharge will be applied "on the page of the website where credit cards are first mentioned."
Also, there could be different fees for different cards. Consumer Action published a guide for you at KnowYourCard.org , explaining consumer rights and responsibilities.
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