Surcharges: Just Say No

The practice by some merchants of charging their customers additional fees just for paying by credit card is one that’s been around for a long time, causing heartache everywhere it’s implemented. Some credit card issuers, like Visa and MasterCard, absolutely forbid the practice, while others, like American Express, strongly discourage it. Although it’s not banned by federal law, it has become illegal in many states. But what if your client resides in a state where the practice isn’t against the law?

The argument for assessing surcharges has always been the same—if a customer wants to pay by swiping plastic, they should be the one to pick up the bill for the credit card processing rates the merchant will be charged. But this point of view is about as antiquated as that heavy-as-a-brick merchant account terminal you sometimes still see behind the counter at a ballpark snack bar.

When it gets right down to it, facilitating payments by credit card should never be viewed as a burden by brick-and-mortar merchants, and certainly not by online merchants for whom the ability to process credit card payment is a necessary for survival. As a web developer, you may want to address this with your clients if they express a desire to impose credit card surcharges.

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