Feb. 15, 2013. Merchants pay credit card companies like VISA and MasterCard a processing fee each time a customer uses a credit card. Historically, credit card companies and large banks that issue cards prohibited merchants from passing that cost directly on to customers in the form of an extra fee.
But retailers took the card companies to court and under a settlement agreement, credit card companies can no longer prevent retailers from hitting customers with a surcharge for using a credit card. The added charge is supposed to represent the merchant’s cost to accept the card, and it can be anywhere from 1.5% to 4% of your purchase price, not including the sales tax.
Merchants are allowed to charge the fee but they aren’t required to do so, and so far most merchants don’t appear to be rushing to impose it. But if a merchant IS going to charge you this extra fee, they have to tell you. They are required to post a notice at the entrance to the store and at the checkout register, and print it on your receipt. They also have to notify you before you make a credit card purchase online. (The settlement agreement didn’t apply to debit cards, nor did it impact American Express cards.)
If you believe that you’ve been charged this fee without being notified about it, or have been charged the fee on the entire amount rather than just the retail price, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.