Checkout fees – what does it mean for your utility?
Statistics for my blog indicate that the article about convenience fees continues to be the most popular. Apparently, lots of people are searching the internet to learn more about charging convenience fees.
Checkout fees now allowed
If you’ve read my newsletter or the blog post mentioned above, you know that whether or not you can charge a convenience fee is based on how you received the payment.
All that has changed. You may have seen in the news that, effective January 27, 2013, retailers can now charge “checkout fees” for Visa and MasterCard transactions. This is the result of the Interchange Settlement as a result of a class action lawsuit brought by retailers against banks and Visa and MasterCard.
I’m not an attorney, but my research leads me to believe that, in this context, a retailer is any entity that accepts credit cards, including municipalities and utility districts.
Rules for charging checkout fees
If you opt to start charging a checkout fee, you must follow some rules. These include notifying your customers of the checkout fee at your entrance, at the point of sale and on the customer’s receipt. I’ve read some advice that recommends issuing separate receipts for the purchase and the checkout fee.
Checkout fees can only be charged for credit card transactions, not debit card or prepaid cards. The checkout fee also cannot exceed what you are charged to process the credit card transaction, up to a maximum of 4%.
Ten states are ineligible
If your utility is in one of the following 10 states where check-out fees are already illegal, the Interchange Agreement didn’t accomplish anything for you. These 10 states are:
- New York
However, if you are located in one of the remaining 40 states, I believe you can now charge a checkout fee for credit card transactions, regardless of how the payment is received.