Starting this week, Americans may find a new checkout fee on their receipts if they pay by credit card.
Retailers can now charge up to 4 percent for credit card transactions under a provision in a class-action settlement between retailers and Visa, MasterCard and major banks. The new provision took effect Jan. 27 and allows retailers to recoup the fees they pay to credit card networks for processing credit cards.
Retailers cannot profit from the surcharges, which affect only credit card transactions and not debit or prepaid purchases, according to the settlement that was reached in July. Ten states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas -- ban these surcharges, so the settlement is moot in those areas.
So far, no major national retailer has announced a credit card checkout fee, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.
"I would be very surprised, too, because they compete on price," he says. "It's like them saying, 'Hey, we're going to raise our prices.'"
Instead, Ulzheimer expects to see the surcharge pop up at liquor stores, gas stations (where profit margins are notoriously slim as it is) and mom and pop shops that operate one or few locations.
MasterCard also doesn't expect many retailers to start charging these fees, either, says company spokesman Seth Eisen. But if they do, customers must be told in advance, he notes.
Retailers must disclose the checkout fee at the store entrance, at the cash register and on your receipt. Online retailers must provide the disclosure on their website.
Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron