With gas prices going up and food manufacturers putting less food in containers while rising prices, consumers have little control over how much the spend on some of their most basic purchases. However, there are some issues they can address. One of them is paying excess fees when making purchases with your credit card. Many consumers are not aware that the major credit cards have put protections in place to prevent merchants from charging extra simply for using a credit card.
Merchant agreements for credit card acceptance contain language that prevents them from requiring a minimum amount or charging cardholders extra for using a Visa or MasterCard. American Express, while not directly forbidding it, requires merchants to adhere to the same rules Visa and MasterCard have in place. Additionally, 10 states have laws that prohibit the practice. If you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, or Texas you can find information on your states’ law and contact information for the state attorney general at http://usa.visa.com/personal/using_visa/checkout_fees/index.html.
Of course, many merchants do so and most card issuers fail to make consumers adequately aware of their rights. However, if you were to type “credit card merchant violations” into your search engine, you would find pages of articles on consumer rights and merchant violations. Some of it may seem outdated but is still applicable.
Merchants argue that they are being charged excessively by banks and have to pass the costs along to the consumer. This argument falls thin because the costs of credit card acceptance should already be built into the prices. They also make the argument that gas stations can charge more for credit cards and get away with. This has some merit but is not entirely true. Gas stations actually give a discount for paying with cash rather than charging cardholders a fee for card usage. It is only a difference in wording but it is significant enough to allow the practice. The only surprising thing is that more merchants do not take this approach. There are some exceptions to the no surcharge rule, involving government entities and educational institutions but that is another issue.
Remember your rights the next time you are shopping and the merchant tells you that it will cost you extra to use your credit card. Unless you need the item desperately and don’t have cash, think twice before making the purchase. If you cannot get out of it, you have the right to lodge a complaint and should do so. Contact Visa at https://usa.visa.com/checkoutfees/contact.jsp or MasterCard at http://www.mastercard.us/support/merchant-violations.html. For American Express file a dispute online through your account or tell the company about your experience at https://www152.americanexpress.com/EformsWeb/un/ViewSuppressionPage.do?loc_str=en_US&utype=internet&origin=6. If you live in one of the states that have laws against the practice, you can also contact your state attorney general and lodge a complaint. You should not have to pay extra simply so a merchant can pass the buck.
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