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I’m currently on the road and just had an opportunity to dine out at a fantastic local breakfast spot. After placing my order and being told my total, I whipped out my Chase Freedom card, at which point I was informed of a $0.40 charge for using a credit card.
I was annoyed, but I was in a hurry and wanted to conserve my cash, so I had them go ahead and run my card. I also rationalized that, with the 5% bonus rewards on restaurants, it would end up being a push vs. using cash. Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that change every three months as long as you remember to enroll each quarter.
So what’s the deal with credit card surcharges? Are they okay? Well… According to Visa (details here):
A checkout fee, or payment card surcharge, is an unfair surprise fee that a retailer tacks onto a consumer’s bill when he or she uses a credit or debit card. Visa rules do not allow retailers to charge cardholders a checkout fee for using their cards, mirroring laws in 10 U.S. states.
In other words, not only does Visa not allow this practice amongst their merchants, but 10 states have actually outlawed such fees. And guess what? The state I’m in is amongst those that don’t allow it.
While this bugged me, it really wasn’t a big enough deal for me to pursue. But if I wanted to follow up on this, I could report them to Visa as well as to the state attorney general’s office. Will I bother? Probably not — it’s just not worth the time involved.
Interestingly, merchants can offer a discount for using cash or checks without running afoul of the rules. While this really seems like two sides of the same coin, the difference is that the merchant would have to advertise a higher price and then discount down from there. I’m guessing that most merchants would prefer to offer a lower price so as to appear more competitive, and then tack on a fee.
What do you think? Should merchants be allowed to tack on a credit card fee? How would you handle it if they did? Would you use your card and move on? Use a different form of payment? Go somewhere else? Report them? Let us know in the comments.
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