A court settlement between retailers and the payments industry allows retailers–brick-and-mortar stores and onine merchants–to pass their credit card acceptance costs on to consumers in the form of a fee. Retailers can decide whether or not to charge this fee, according to the Electronic Payments Coalition, Washington, D.C.
Here are steps you can take to avoid checkout fees:
• Shop around. Merchants are allowed to charge a fee equivalent to what they’ll pay to accept your card, typically between 1.5% and 3% of the total purchase. Some merchants won’t charge fees for using a credit or charge card. Before you get to the cash register, look for in-store signage or ask a sales person if you’ll be charged a fee. If you will, consider shopping elsewhere.
• Know your rights. By law, merchants can’t surprise you with fees at the last minute, try to hide fees, or overcharge you. Retailers must provide clear disclosure of fees with signs at the store entrance, at the point of sale, and on the customer’s receipt. Receipts must list the amount of the fee, a statement saying the merchant is imposing a fee, and reassurance that the fee isn’t more than what it will cost the merchant to accept the card. Online merchants must disclose fees on their homepages.
• Request a discount. Don’t hesitate to ask merchants that charge a fee for a discount.
Checkout fees remain illegal in 10 states. Consumer Action recently published an online guide with information about checkout fees and a list of these states on its knowyourcard.org website.
Just as you should shop around for merchants who don’t charge fees, you also should shop around for credit cards offering low rates and fees. Check out Priority First’s low-rate credit card.