You may already be rooting out the best deals and clipping as many coupons as you can to reduce the cost of your purchases. Now, you might have to add another step to your frugal habits (if any). Retailers are now allowed charge a small fee for the consumer privilege of using a credit card.
Merchants gained the right to impose a surcharge of up to 4 percent of the credit card purchase as the result of a class-action settlement between retailers, Visa, MasterCard and major banks.
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That’s an extra $4 on every $100 spent with a credit card. Over time, this surcharge can make a sizable dent to your bank account. (Not to mention the 2 percent hike on our payroll taxes.)
Here are some pointers for consumers who wish to avoid these fees:
Credit card surcharges prohibited in certain states
Surcharges for using a credit card are banned in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. However, in other states, the credit card checkout fee is fair game.
Consumers who reside along state borders may consider taking a trip to another state to use their credit cards — especially for major purchases. But, don’t forget account for the extra costs of travel.
Additionally, shopping online is a great way to skirt the premium for using a credit card. (Note: online businesses are allowed impose a credit card surcharge too.)
Keep an eye out for the fee notice
Although retailers are allowed to charge a credit card checkout fee, it doesn’t mean that they will do so. The extra cost is likely to repel price-conscious consumers. In the end, retailers could end up losing more business than the 4 percent fee is worth.
Most of the 10 largest U.S. retailers will not be charging such a fee.
If a retailer does collect the credit card surcharge, it must make clear disclosures at store entrances, checkout counters and on customer receipts. You’ll know which stores to stay away from.
Use cash or the debit card
The surcharge can only be charged on credit card purchases. Payment networks Visa and MasterCard prohibit merchants from imposing surcharges on purchases made with a debit card or prepaid card.
Additionally, cash is another option — if you plan ahead and carry enough of it to make your purchase.
Some consumers may use their rewards or cash back credit cards in an attempt to mitigate the surcharge, but it won’t be a wise move. More likely than not, you’ll still be paying a little extra because few credit cards are able to provide enough rewards or cash back to recuperate the cost of the new checkout fee.
However, one of these credit card hacks (through the use of a prepaid account) could allow you to collect cash back and dodge the credit card surcharge.
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