Credit card ‘checkout fees’: Coming soon to a store near you?

Consumer Action educates shoppers on their rights when retailers impose credit card surcharges

Contact: Linda Sherry, Consumer Action, 415-777-9648 | Trish Wexler, Electronic Payments Coalition, 202-288-1238

Washington, DC – Consumer Action today releases a brief guide to help consumers understand new and potentially higher costs when they use a credit card at some retailers. As a result of a settlement between retailers (online and offline) and the payments industry, consumers soon may begin seeing retailer surcharges, or “checkout fees,” when using their credit cards at brick-and-mortar stores or online merchants. Consumer Action has published an online guide that explains consumer rights and retailer responsibilities, available on its Know Your Card website.

The settlement, reached in July between retailers, nine major banks, Visa and MasterCard, gives retailers the option to pass credit card acceptance costs on to consumers through checkout fees. The preliminary settlement was signed on Nov. 9, making the settlement terms effective in late January 2013.

“Over the last couple of years, there have been a lot of changes for consumers at the register. 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,” said Linda Sherry, Consumer Action’s director of national priorities. “One of our goals is to make sure consumers know their rights when these changes occur, and have enough information to be smart shoppers.”

The Know Your Card website includes Consumer Action’s new guide containing information about the states where it is illegal to apply surcharges, disclosures that retailers are required to provide and steps that consumers can take to avoid checkout fees altogether. The guide, Checkout Fees: Consumer rights and retailer responsibilities, includes the following:

  • Checkout fees are permitted only on credit and charge cards, NOT on debit cards.
  • Checkout fees remain illegal in ten states (full list in guide).
  • Retailers must limit fees to what they pay to accept the card. In the U.S., that is typically between 1.5% and 3% of the total purchase.
  • Retailers must provide “clear disclosure” (such as signage) of any checkout fees.
  • The disclosure on the receipt must list the amount of the checkout fee, the fact that the retailer is imposing the charge and that the fee is not greater than what it costs the retailer to accept credit and charge cards.
  • Checkout fees can vary for different kinds of cards (such as rewards cards or premier cards), so be sure to ask your retailer in advance if different surcharges apply and choose your payment card accordingly.

Additionally, the guide highlights steps that consumers can take to prepare for and manage the costs of checkout fees. Some steps are as simple as shopping around for retailers that don’t charge checkout fees or requesting discounts for alternative forms of payment. Checkout Fees: Consumer rights and retailer responsibilities was produced in partnership with the Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC), which includes credit unions, community banks, and payment card networks. See "About Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC)" below.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action, a San Francisco-based national education and advocacy organization with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A non-profit 501(c)3 organization, Consumer Action focuses on financial education that empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. It delivers its multilingual educational programs and materials through a unique nationwide network of 7,500 community-based organizations and on the organization’s website (www.consumer-action.org).

About Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC)

The EPC includes credit unions, community banks, and payment card networks that move electronic payments quickly and securely between millions of merchants and millions of consumers across the globe. EPC’s goal is to protect the value, innovation, convenience and competition in today’s growing electronic payments system. EPC educates policymakers, consumers, and the media on the system’s role in economic growth, and the importance of protecting consumer choice and stability for the continued growth of global commerce.

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Credit card ‘checkout fees’: Coming soon to a store near you?   (checkout_fees_PR.pdf)

 

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