Lost count of all the fees associated with credit cards these days? Well, consumers in Arizona and several other states have started to see another one being tacked onto everything from apples to Ziploc bags.

On Jan. 27, Visa and MasterCard began allowing merchants to pass along their payment processing costs to consumers who pay with a credit card. This means that any merchant can now choose to impose a surcharge, sometimes referred to as a “checkout fee,” that would increase your credit card purchase amount by as much as 4 percent (the maximum allowed).

It’s important to note that this is a fee imposed by merchants, not the banks or credit unions who issue cards.

Here are a few quick facts about the program that consumers should be aware of:

Charging the fee is entirely up to the merchant – they are not required to charge customers if they don’t want to.

The fee only applies to credit cards, not debit cards.

The fee cannot be more than what the merchant actually pays to accept credit cards (normally between 1.5 percent and 3 percent of the purchase amount.

Merchants have to clearly inform customers that they are charging this fee. That includes signage at the store entrance, at the point of sale and on their homepage for Internet transactions.

Your receipt must include the dollar amount of the surcharge.

For example, a credit card customer who purchases $100 worth of products at a participating merchant should expect to see a surcharge of between $1.50 and $3.00 added to the total.  

Certain states prohibit the checkout fee, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.

Start looking for checkout fee signs at your favorite shops or websites and also consider using debit cards over credit for certain transactions.  Not all merchants will charge this fee so consumers should be aware that they can avoid it by shopping around.

For more information about the checkout fee and other important information about credit cards, consumers can go to: www.knowyourcard.org.

Hughes Federal Credit Union has been serving Tucson since 1952 as a not-for-profit financial cooperative, owned by members, www.hughesfcu.org.

(Editor’s Note: Carla Craig is the Vice President Operations and Support at Hughes Federal Credit Union.)

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