| January 7, 2013

Credit Checkout Fees on the Horizon

A settlement reached between retail groups and credit card processors may go into effect.

A provision of a recent settlement reached between retail groups and the nation’s largest credit card processors may go into effect in the near future, but it may not have as large an impact on consumers as one might expect.

In the coming weeks, a new rule which allows merchants who utilize the services of Visa and MasterCard to charge checkout fees to consumers could take hold, according to a report from the consumer advocacy group Consumer Action.

“Over the last couple of years, there have been a lot of changes for consumers at the register,” said Linda Sherry, Consumer Action’s director of national priorities. “A year ago, the Durbin amendment was implemented, which decreased the cost that retailers pay to accept debit cards, allowing them to pass on savings to consumers if they choose. Now consumers may face credit card checkout fees or surcharges, at the register.”

What consumers should know
Right now, experts anticipate the additional fee to range between 1.5 and 3 percent, the report said. However, this will rely on the type of card being used, rewards programs as well as the credit standing on some users.

Although this could obviously lead to higher costs at registers across the country, it may have a much smaller impact than anticipated. For one, added credit card checkout fees are currently illegal in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas. Consumers who encounter added fees in these states in the coming months are encouraged to contact their state’s attorney general office or a credit counseling agency.

Additionally, consumers should be aware that that these types of fees will only apply to credit card transactions and not debit and gift card purchases, the report said.

Further, merchants who implement checkout fees will be required to make the public knowledge to their patrons, so they don’t run into any surprises once their transactions cost is tallied.

Because added checkout fees can inevitably lead to additional credit card debt for some borrowers, some borrowers could encounter financial hardship in the future. Consumers who find themselves in a tough position at the hands of these new fees should enlist credit counseling services to help get their finances back on track.

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