Visa, MasterCard, and several banks have agreed to pay $7.25 billion to settle antitrust charges that were brought by 7 million merchants, a diverse group ranging from the nation's largest chains to mom-and-pop shops. If the deal is approved by a federal judge, it would end a long-running dispute over the "swipe fee" — 2 to 5 percent of the bill — that Visa and MasterCard charge merchants every time a customer uses plastic. Under the terms of the settlement, Visa, MasterCard, and the banks would pay out $6 billion in penalties and reduce the swipe fee. In addition, merchants would be allowed to levy a surcharge on customers who use credit cards, which would let them recoup the cost of the reduced swipe fee. Are retailers likely to do so?
Yep. Customers should expect to start paying more: Many retailers will likely impose a new "checkout fee" for consumers paying with credit cards, says Susanna Kim at ABC News. While big chains like Walmart and Target may decide that they can afford to eat the costs of the swipe fee in order to retain customer loyalty, struggling mom-and-pop shops around the country are more likely to take advantage of this windfall.
"Settlement may lead some consumers to pay 'swipe' fees"
In some cases, customers won't even have a choice: The checkout fee is a "tricky question for many retailers because they risk angering customers who prefer credit cards for purchases," says Robin Sidel at The Wall Street Journal. But "hotels and airlines are among the industries that may be the most likely to impose surcharges because their customers don't typically pay any other way." In those cases, the surcharge will probably be incorporated seamlessly into all their products and offerings.
"Card pact's foes arm for battle"
No. Retailers would be dumb to charge more for plastic: Merchants have benefited enormously from the spread of credit cards, and most of them would be insane to put that revenue stream at risk, says Daniel Fisher at Forbes. Many sales would simply not occur if customers had only a credit card in their wallet and were expected to pay more than those who happened to have cash. Furthermore, introducing a checkout fee would make the shopping experience too similar to buying an airplane ticket, evoking the multiple surcharges and hidden fees that have made the industry synonymous with awful customer service.
"$6 billion visa settlement frees consumers to pay more"