Money Matters: Credit card deal could take swipe at holders' wallets
If approved, a deal between credit card companies and retailers could leave some consumers footing the bill. YNN's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following "Money Matters" report.
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Every time you swipe your credit card, the bank that issues that card - like Visa and Mastercard - collects a small fee from the retailer. On average, it's about two percent of the transaction. Charge a $4 cup of coffee? That's eight cents. But multiply that by thousands of people day after day, and it could take a big bite out of the store's bottom line.
"For merchants, particularly on small ticket items, these interchange fees can chew up most if not all of their profit margin," explains Greg McBride, Senior Financial Analyst at Bankrate.com.
After paying some $50 billion a year in such fees, merchants began to complain the rate was being artificially inflated. They launched a massive class-action lawsuit and recently reached a settlement that would see banks pay back more than $6 billion and temporarily lower the fees.
"What this does is gives merchants the ability to assess an additional charge for consumers who pay with a credit card," McBride says.
In other words, for the first time, rather than pay the fee themselves, retailers can pass it on to you. But just because they can, does not mean they will.
"There are a lot of sales that take place simply because the merchant accepts credit cards. If they don’t accept credit cards or if they assess a surcharge for credit card payments a lot of those customers are going to turn around and go right back out the door. They’re not going to stay and pay with cash," McBride says.
Several large retailers have announced their opposition to the deal which is still pending in federal court. Even if it is approved, consumers in 10 states -- including New York, California and Texas -- will not be effected since laws already on the books prohibit such surcharges.
So does that mean many of us are off the hook? Not likely.
"Whether that’s paying a surcharge on a credit card or paying your card issuer an annual fee or having less generous rewards on the program. If the card issuers are getting less money with each and every purchase, you can bet that that bill is going to get passed on to the consumer," McBride adds.