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Fees coming to a checkout near you
SAN FRANCISCO (12/26/12)--Consumers could soon see checkout fees for using credit cards at brick-and-mortar businesses and online merchants alike. A July settlement among nine major banks, Visa, and MasterCard gives merchants the right to pass the costs of processing credit card transactions on to consumers through checkout fees (Consumer Action Dec. 13).

Here are steps you can take to avoid checkout fees:

  • Shop around. Merchants are allowed to charge a fee equivalent to what they'll pay to accept your card, typically between 1.5% and 3% of the total purchase. Some merchants won't charge fees for using a credit or charge card. Before you get to the cash register, look for in-store signage or ask a sales person if you'll be charged a fee. If you will, consider shopping elsewhere.
  • Know your rights. By law, merchants can't surprise you with fees at the last minute, try to hide fees, or overcharge you. Retailers must provide clear disclosure of fees with signs at the store entrance, at the point of sale, and on the customer's receipt. Receipts must list the amount of the fee, a statement saying the merchant is imposing a fee, and reassurance that the fee isn't more than what it will cost the merchant to accept the card. Online merchants must disclose fees on their homepages. Checkout fees remain illegal in 10 states; see the resource links.
  • Request a discount. Don't hesitate to ask merchants that charge a fee for a discount.
Consumer Action recently published an online guide with information about checkout fees on its website.

For related information, listen to the Home & Family Finance Radio segment "Credit and Debit Cards: A Way of Life" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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