Verify: Can you be charged a convenience fee for using a credit card?

Can you be charged a convenience fee for purchasing with a credit card?  

WASHINGTON (WUSA) - QUESTION:

Can you be charged a convenience fee for purchasing with a credit card?

ANSWER:

Yes, it's legal in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. 

SOURCES:

Matt Shultz, Senior Industry Analyst- CreditCards.com 

Kimberly Palmer, Credit Card Expert- Nerd Wallet

"Card Acceptance Guidelines for Visa Merchants"- Visa

Andrew Johnson, Corporate Affairs & Communications- American Express Co.

Seth Eisen, Senior Vice President External Communications- Mastercard

Jeremy Borling, Corporate Communications- Discover

"CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD SURCHARGES STATUTES"- National Conference of State Legislatures

PROCESS:

No one likes unexpected fees--especially fees for using a credit card over cash--but it's everywhere and it's legal. 

There are two types of fees a merchant can tack onto your credit card bill: convenience fees and surcharges.

Convenience fees apply in cases where the typical form of payment isn't with a credit card. Historically, one pays off college tuition or taxes with a check or in-person with cash, but a merchant may offer an alternative method, i.e. payment by credit card, so that you can pay from the comfort of your home. The same thing goes for buying tickets online instead of the box office or paying your daycare through an online portal.

Convenience fees apply when paying by plastic is atypical. Surcharges are just the opposite--they're levied by retailers like grocery stores and gas stations for using a credit card in a typical setting.

Banks and Credit Card Processors charge the merchant a fee--typically three or four percent--per credit card swipe. Merchants apply surcharge fees to cover that back-end cost. 

There's no way to get around paying for a convenience fees and surcharges, but Credit Card Expert at Nerd Wallet Kimberly Palmer says why not outsmart them?

"If you're using a credit card where you are earning three percent back in cash back, then you're essentially cancelling out that convenience fee," Palmer said. "So you as a consumer can plan ahead and think about ways to minimize the impact of that convenience fee." 

Matt Shultz, Senior Industry Analyst at CreditCards.com, says not all cards are created equal.

"Surcharges are not allowed on debit card or prepaid card purchases," Shultz said. "However, this is less of a issue for merchants because the Durbin Amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act severely limits the fees that merchants must pay for debit card transactions. That means that merchants pay far lower fees when a customer uses a debit card than when they use a credit card."

So we can Verify, yes, companies are allowed to certain fees for the convenience of using a credit card.

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