Dear Consumer Ed:
How much of a surcharge are merchants allowed to charge you for paying with a credit card?
Surcharges for credit card payments became legal in January of 2013 following a class-action settlement between merchants, Visa, MasterCard, and a number of major banks. Now, merchants may charge from 2-4% (but not more) of the underlying credit card purchase if you make your purchase using either a Visa or MasterCard credit card. This surcharge is meant to cover the cost that merchants pay to the credit card companies in order to have the ability to process payments made with those credit cards.
However, merchants who add this fee onto their customers’ bills must post a sign in their front window notifying them of this. Additionally, the merchants must disclose the exact amount of the surcharge at the point of sale and on their receipts. A caution: For online purchases, merchants are only required to disclose this surcharge on the first page where the potential customer is prompted to enter in his/her credit card information.
These surcharges may only be imposed on Visa and MasterCard purchases; such fees may not (at least not yet) be assessed for an American Express or Discover Card purchase. Finally, a merchant can never impose a surcharge for a purchase made on a debit card.
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