Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Watch Out For New Credit Card Fees

How many times have you gone to a retail store, usually small, or a gas station, and when you were going to use your credit or debit card, they charged you an additional fee?  ARCO gas stations are famous for their 35¢ charge for using a debit card. Those fees are completely legal.  But, charging to use your card as a credit card, those charges that merchants sometimes hit you with, has been illegal -- until now.  In January, merchants can now charge fees or surcharges when you purchase something from them with a credit card.

In the summer of 2012, the major credit card companies finally settled a lawsuit to the tune of $7.2 Billion dollars, yes, with a "B" for not playing fair on their credit card charges with all merchants.  However, part of the fine print of the settlement now allows merchants to pass on that surcharge to us, the consumers.  It may be in the form of a percentage of the sale, something like 1.5% - 3% or a set amount of some small amount similar to ARCO's 35¢ fee or Carl's Jr.'s fee of 75¢ to $1.50 per debit card transaction. The bad thing is, these fees start out small, mostly like nuisance fees, but over time, since its now legal to charge them on credit card purchases, I don't doubt we will see merchants slowly raise them up, up, up.

Many of the larger merchants, like WalMart, have publicly stated that they are not going to pass that surcharge on to the consumer.  But, there's no doubt that there will be many of the smaller local merchants all over the country imposing it on their clientele.  I have no doubt because though it has been illegal for years, there are some small stores and gas stations that I go to that have always charged the fee whether it is debit or credit.  Me and my big mouth, I always tell them that its illegal to charge it when I'm using credit.  Its a violation of their merchant agreement with the credit card issuers, and it is a violation of law in my state.

Most states are going to allow this surcharge to be passed on to the consumer but there are 10 states that have laws in place already and they are not changing those laws to accommodate merchants, even with this court approved settlement agreement.  The ten states that will still outlaw passing on the surcharge to consumers or charging consumers a "convenience" fee are:
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas 
 I'm in California. The law that makes this kind of activity illegal is California Civil Code 1748.1(a) and it says this:  
      "No retailer in any sales, service, or lease transaction with a 
       consumer may impose a surcharge on a cardholder who elects 
       to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check, or 
       similar means.  A retailer may, however, offer discounts for 
       the purpose of inducing payment by cash, check or other 
       means not involving the use of a credit card, provided that 
       the discount is offered to all prospective buyers."

So, if you're in one of the above states, look for this law in your state's civil code.  If you are charged that fee illegally, and you want to do something about it, you can contact your state Attorney General or you actually have the right to sue for actual damages x 3 plus attorney and litigation fees.  Most people won't want to sue over such a small amount, I imagine, but contacting the state Attorney General, oh, and you can contact your credit card company and dispute it and complain to them as well, and that merchant will get in trouble.  They will get a warning at first, but repeat offenders may actually lose their privilege of accepting plastic payments, which will probably negatively affect their business.

You can also fight back by not using credit in those retail locations that legally or illegally charge that fee and going somewhere that allows you to purchase something without penalizing you for paying with  your credit card.  I use my debit card as a credit card but I've stopped using the major credit cards for a number of years now.  They just make too much money for nothing.  They illegally issue credit (when they are banks, its against the law for banks to lend credit) and they violate the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), Regulation Z, and further, they just create the money out of thin air, monetize your signature on your credit application and sell it, without ever giving you or crediting you the money they made off of it.  Then, they charge you to use your own money (yes, they didn't lend you a dime, and they made money before you even got the "credit" by selling YOUR signature), and then add interest charges, late charges, over the limit charges, fees for making your monthly payment, and if you're late, they put a strike against your credit.

 So, this is just a heads up on some new expenses you will probably start incurring this year, thanks to the greed of the credit card companies.  They are the ones that charge merchants and they pass it on to you so that their businesses don't suffer. Big banks and credit card companies, always finding ways to stick it to the little people and get richer and richer. Please don't take my opinion on being rich wrong. I thoroughly believe people should work hard to make as much money as they want and they should be able to keep it or spend it however they choose.  I just have a major problem with the way banks and credit cards make their money and am against bailouts for them when they don't need them, the consumers do. The consumers are the ones footing the bailout bill in the end also.  Besides, they have the ability to create "money" out of thin air, pretty much whenever they want, so I just have no pity for them at all.

If you're not going to be feeling these surcharges and fees because your credit cards are in collections or charged off and you can't pay them, read some of my other posts about disputing those collection accounts and collection agencies. You can repair your credit. You can restore it to where it was before so that you can get credit again.  You may think that you actually owe these credit card debts and somehow have to find a way to pay them. Please look through my blog and read the posts that will help you.  

As always, if you have questions or comments to make, feel free to hit the comment button below. If you need help with your credit, you can email or call me anytime.  That contact information is a the top right side of this page. I would love to be able to help in any way I can.


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