Paying by Credit Card Could Cost You More Beginning Sunday

Beginning this Sunday, retailers in most states could begin charging you a fee when you buy something with a credit card.

But most industry analysts feel competition will limit the number of merchants that actually begin charging a "checkout fee."

This is part of a settlement on an antitrust case involving the swipe fees that retailers must pay every time a consumer pays for a transaction with a credit card.

In July, the largest federal antitrust settlement in U.S. history was reached when MasterCard, Visa and major banks agreed to pay more than $6 billion to resolve accusations that they engaged in anticompetitive practices and price fixing in payment processing.

As part of that settlement, retailers were given the opportunity to charge higher prices to their customers for paying with credit cards beginning on January 27. Before this settlement, the card companies prohibited retailers from adding this type of surcharge.

Merchants can charge consumers using a credit card the same rate they are being charged by the processing company for the swipe fee which is usually between 1.5 percent and 3 percent.

Merchants must disclose the "checkout fee" so consumers need to be looking for notification or signs at the register.

This surcharge can only be applied on transactions with credit cards and charge cards, not on debit cards.

The credit card checkout fee is not allowed in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.

American Express did not take part in this agreement so merchants are not allowed to add a checkout fee when consumers use an American Express card. The irony is that American Express cards have the highest interchange fees of all credit card processors.

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