As of Sunday, retailers may start charging consumers a “checkout fee” when making purchases with a credit card. That’s right. For the privilege of paying with credit, your favorite shop may have the option of charging you for the convenience.
In July of 2012 a settlement was reached between merchants and credit card companies that allow a merchant to charge you as a way to help defray the costs of “swipe fees” charged to the retailer by the credit card company. Ideally, the fees can’t be higher than what the merchant pays in a swipe fee — somewhere around 1.5% to 3% of the transaction. Formerly, the fees were capped at 21 cents per transaction — but the July settlement doesn’t include a cap. So could there be a surcharge free-for-all then? Will this be anything like going to an ATM and being charged $3.00 or more for the convenience of using that particular ATM?
Consumer advocates don’t believe that there will be a “run” on surcharges once January 27th rolls around in a few short days. Yet, they believe it will creep into costs over time. Fantastic. They also don’t believe large retailers will take advantage of their new right to add surcharges. So Walmart, Costco, Target and any of the other mega-discount retailers may shy away from it. Uh-huh. Have you guys been reading anything about Walmart lately?! You know about the Mexican Government bribes and their not wanting to lose money if the US government closes the gun show loophole? Haha! So, yes, exactly. Walmart hardly wants your money, America. Especially when they don’t have to do anything to get it. Nope, not at all. Walmart is too ethical to charge a checkout fee that’s been handed to them on a golden non-loophole platter. You silly consumer advocates. Walmart trutherism is for kids.
Still the guys over at Consumer Action believe it’s really the small merchants you’ll have to worry about. Those who think they’re not making much money anyway so why not tack on a “Thanks for Shopping With Us” fee. It’s not like they haven’t been doing it anyway! Whenever you get offered a lower price when you pay with cash, you’ve essentially been paying a credit card “gratuity” when you don’t.
There are currently 10 states that have banned the practice, including California, New York, Florida and Texas. Of course New York is on that list. Merchants won’t be able to stock 20 oz. sodas in NYC in little more than a month, natch. There’s no way King Bloomberg would allow some willy-nilly credit card fee created by obvious city-crippling hobgoblins to wreak havoc and annihilate tourism by making things in the city exorbitant in cost. But don’t say you haven’t been warned, and as of this report we still don’t know exactly how much you’ll see on your credit slip if merchants get on board.
The best way to avoid the fee is by using cash or a debit card. So you’ll have to really consider the pros and cons of handing over the AMEX for your Slurpee and Funyuns. Oh, America. We all know you do this.