What remains unclear is which retailers can actually impose this added fee.
Starting Sunday, retailers are allowed to recoup costs from processing a credit card transaction by charging consumers a checkout fee. The new policy comes under a preliminary class-action settlement between retailers and Visa, MasterCard and a host of national banks.
Some who oppose the preliminary settlement say existing rules with Visa and MasterCard greatly limit which retailers can impose surcharges. But the law firm representing the retailers in the case disagrees.
The National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade group, contends that retailers that operate in the 10 states that ban surcharging -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas -- would not be allowed to charge the checkout fee in the 40 other states.
"Existing Visa/MasterCard rules require retailers to handle credit cards the same in all of their stores, so national chains that have stores in any of those 10 states would not be able to surcharge in any state," says Craig Shearman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation. "The same would apply to regional chains that have stores in any of the 10 states."
Not so, says Thomas Undlin, an attorney with the law firm that represents the retailers in the settlement case. Undlin says this issue was brought up at the preliminary approval hearing in November, and it was clarified that a retailer could charge a checkout fee in a state that allows it while also not surcharging in a state that bans it. He said the point was clarified in the settlement notice sent to retailers.
In the notice, it states that "the fact that a merchant’s ability to surcharge may be restricted under the laws of one or more states is not intended to limit that merchant’s ability under the settlement to surcharge Visa or MasterCard credit cards where permitted by state law."
"It seems they are raising a lot of issues because of concerns about the settlement," Undlin says. "This one is not accurate."
Aside from the NRF, several major retailers and associations including Walmart, Target, the National Association of Convenience Stores and 10 of the 19 named plaintiffs have objected to the settlement for a host of reasons.
In the end, it doesn't matter who is allowed to surcharge or not. Not many will, says NRF's Shearman.
"While there can always be exceptions, merchants in general have no intention of surcharging," he says. "We have discussed the settlement with many, many merchants, and not a single merchant we have spoken to plans to surcharge."
Have you found a surcharge? Where and how much?
Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron