Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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A New Credit Card Fee May Be on the Way

Retailers may start charging a fee to consumers who use their credit cards. For years, merchants have paid a processing fee for credit card purchases. It’s one of the reasons that many smaller retailers don’t accept credit cards. The recent change is the result of a lawsuit settlement between merchants and processing networks Visa and MasterCard.

Merchants can assess a fee for credit card purchases, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will. Those stores that do charge a fee can’t charge excessive fees. The fee would probably be around 1.5% to 3% of your transaction since that’s what retailers typically pay to credit card processing networks. For small purchases, the fee would also be small, e.g. $1.50 on a $50 purchase. However, the more you charge, the higher the fee would be. For example, you’d pay $15.00 fee on a $500 purchase. Keep in mind, the retailer currently pays this fee, though many have already priced products to compensate for credit card fees.

If you use your credit card frequently, for example to accumulate rewards, those fees would add up. Before you know it, you may be spending hundreds each year on top of any fees your credit card issuer charges. On top of that, if you carry a balance, you'll end up paying more interest since your balances would be higher. The fees would give you much less purchasing power. All this would make using credit cards unattractive.

If your favorite retailers decide to start charging fees for credit card purchases, it shouldn’t be a surprise. As part of the settlement, merchants are required to display a notice in several places: at the store’s entrance, at the register, and on the receipt. Then you have to decide whether you want to use a credit card or another method of payment.

Obviously you want to avoid unnecessary fees, but there are some reasons to use credit card in the first place. Keep these in mind as you consider whether to keep using a credit card or ditch it in favor of a less expensive payment method.

Some credit cards offer purchase protection beyond what the retailer offers. Most credit cards will refund your purchases, within a certain timeframe, if the retailer refuses to refund your money. You may also have accidental damage protection that covers up to a certain amount if you mistakenly break a product purchase with your credit card.

You may have automatic extended warranty on items purchased with your credit card. Credit cards that offer this perk will often double the manufacturer’s warranty, but only up to a certain number of years. That extended warranty can give you peace of mind knowing your covered even though you declined the retailer’s warranty.

Federal law limits your liability for unauthorized charges to $50. Credit card companies often offer zero liability essentially waiving your liability for the other $50. By contrast, you could be liability for up to $500 of authorized debit card charges in the same timeframe that credit card liability is capped at $50.

Your credit card may have collision damage waiver on rental vehicle. The waiver allows you to safely decline the collision damage insurance the car rental company encourages you to purchase. You'll save money on car rentals and have protection if something happens to the vehicle. (Make sure you read your credit card agreement to learn what you must to do use the card's collision damage waiver.)

If you travel internationally, you’ll often have to pay a fee to convert your dollars to that country’s local currency. However, if you use a credit card is one with no foreign transaction fee, converting currency is free.

While the parties to the settlement have agreed, the court hasn’t approved the terms. So, there’s still a chance that the fees won’t come to fruition. However, if merchants do start charging fees, carry a backup payment method to use when you've decided that the purchase isn't worth the extra fee.

Sources: Federal Trade Commission, Electronic Payments Coalition, The New York Times
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Saturday, 24 August 2019

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