Hey Lifehacker, I recently picked up some new gear, including a Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS joystick system (yes!). At the checkout, when I said I wanted to pay with my credit card, I was told there would be a 3 per surcharge on credit card payments. Is this legal? Thanks, My Joy Got Stuck
picture from Shutterstock
This is one of those perennial Ask topics, which means that it’s one that we’ve covered before in some detail. Then again, that’s because credit card surcharges remain a ongoing pain point for Australian consumers.
The really short answer is that yes, it’s entirely legal for a business to tack on a surcharge when customers opt to use a credit card.
Businesses pay a fee for credit card transactions, and they’re allowed to pass that fee onto consumers if they wish.
A business is only permitted to recover "reasonable costs" when it comes to credit card surcharges, but there’s plenty of evidence that suggests that business are, shall we say, a little flexible when it comes to an interpretation of what "reasonable" constitutes.
It may be tempting to switch over to paying via EFTPOS, but there, as we’ve noted previously, businesses can pretty much charge what they like, although there’s an obvious incentive for them not to make EFTPOS charges too onerous.
You could argue with a business that its surcharge quantity was excessive, but that’s not likely to bear much fruit. If you were particularly keen you could check with the issuing authority what its general surcharge rates are, but they’re under no specific obligation to let you know the financial arrangements of an individual business, so at best that’s only likely to be indicative.
Which ultimately means that the best option as a consumer remains to vote with your wallet, and make it clear to the business that they’re losing your custom due to excessive credit card surcharges. That naturally will depend on the kind of deal they're offering, because if you really want that Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS and their deal including surcharge is still cheaper than the rest, it may be a false economy.
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