The fee in question is widely described as a “checkout fee,” and starting on Jan. 27, retailers will have the option of charging it on any purchase made with a credit card. The fee came about as a result of a settlement reached in July 2012 between merchants and credit card networks, and is intended to help defray the costs of the swipe fees charged by those networks. As such, it can’t be higher than what the merchant actually pays as a swipe fee — usually between 1.5% and 3% of the transaction.
The settlement was actually merchants’ second swipe-fee victory in recent years. The first came in the form of the Durbin Amendment, which capped swipe fees on debit card purchases at 21 cents per transaction.
The July settlement didn’t cap swipe fees on credit cards, but it did give retailers the right to pass them on to consumers — if they choose to.
Tens of millions of customers will never see checkout fees, though. That’s because 10 states have formally banned the practice, a list that includes California, New York, Florida and Texas.
If you don’t live in one of those 10 states, though, you could potentially see signs alerting you about checkout fees as early as this Sunday. If you do, you can avoid them by paying with cash or a debit card — or by taking your business elsewhere.