New credit card fees may be passed on to consumers

Deciding between cash and credit is becoming more complicated this week. As of yesterday, merchants in 40 states can charge you more to swipe your card.

That’s because every time you pay by credit card, the store has to pay a fee. These vary from about 1.5 percent to much more for fancy rewards cards. Under a new rule, stores can pass that on to you. The change stems from a settlement last year that alleged price-fixing between the major credit card companies.

"“Consumers are the ones who lose,"” says Curtis Arnold, the founder of CardRatings.com. “"The retailer can pass on the fee but the likelihood of them reducing what they’'re charging for goods and services is historically pretty unlikely.”"

Despite the rule, experts don'’t expect many retailers to tack on the surcharge.

"“Small business are really terrified that they’ll discourage customers,"” says Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at UMass Amherst.

“And in today’'s economic climate, that’'s the last thing they want to do.”

It’'s small businesses that generally feel the most pain from these so-called swipe fees, making them less competitive, whether they pass on the fee or not.

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