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Credit Card Purchases May Soon Carry a Surcharge

VISA and MASTERCARD have agreed in a settlement of a long-standing court battle to allow merchants to SURCHARGE customers for interchange fees. Call them "swipe fees," "checkout fees," or "surcharges," consumers may have to deal with a new expense at the register if they pay with a credit card, thanks to a $7.25 billion settlement reached Friday. The settlement, which is pending court approval, may come to fruition in late 2012 or early 2013.

There are some consumer safeguards to curb abuses, the Electronic Payments Coalition noted:

* “Merchants are only allowed to assess a fee that is equivalent to what they pay to accept credit cards – which in the U.S. is typically between 1.5 percent and 3 percent.
* Consumers can only be charged checkout fees for credit card usage. Merchants cannot charge customers for the use of their debit card.”

Retailers must disclose the fee on the receipt, at the point of sale and at the point of entry, according to The Consumerist.

Currently, surcharging is illegal in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.