Paying with a credit card is about to get more expensive for many Canadians
New rules about credit card surcharges and who has to pay them are set to take effect across Canada on Thursday, giving all business owners the power to choose whether or not they pass along Visa and Mastercard's "swipe fees" to consumers who pay with plastic.
As of Oct. 6, 2022, Canadian merchants large and small (save for those in Quebec) will have the ability to charge extra money when accepting credit.
These new fees are meant to offset the fees that credit card companies charge vendors with every purchase — something that Visa and Mastercard have traditionally prohibited business owners from passing along to customers.
Who knew so many Toronto convenience stores had simply been going rogue all these years with their own card surcharges?
"A surcharge is an additional fee that a merchant adds on a transaction when the consumer pays for a product or service with a credit card. The Visa and Mastercard rules affecting surcharging are set to change October 6, 2022," reads a website for the class action lawsuit that instigated the change.
Class action members of the lawsuit (all business owners) initially alleged that Visa, Mastercard and "certain banks" had conspired to "set higher interchange fees and to impose rules restricting merchants' ability to surcharge or refuse higher cost Visa and Mastercard credit cards."
Settlements totalling roughly $188 million were eventually reached with the major credit card companies, as well as with financial institutions including Capital One, Citigroup, Bank of America, Desjardins, National Bank, Visa, Mastercard, CIBC, Royal Bank, Bank of Montreal, TD Bank, and Bank of Nova Scotia.
"Additionally, Visa and Mastercard have agreed to modify their no-surcharge rules to allow merchants to surcharge up to a cap, and to ensure this ability to surcharge remains in effect for a minimum of five years," reads the class action lawsuit's website.
So what does this mean for the average credit card user in Canada?
Well, that depends on where they're shopping, dining or procuring services.
As of tomorrow, it will be up to each individual merchant to choose whether or not to add Visa and Mastercard surcharges to the bills of patrons.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) announced in a news release on Wednesday that roughly one-fifth of all merchants it had surveyed "intend to use the new power to surcharge."
Another 26 per cent indicated that they'll implement the charge if their competitors or supplies do, while 40 per cent of small firms said they're not yet sure. Only 15 per cent of the nearly 4,000 Canadian business owners surveyed indicated that they didn't intend to put surcharges on the customer's tab.
"These data reveal the frustration so many business owners feel about the high cost of credit card processing, which can eat about 1.5 to 2.5% of every sale," said CFIB president Dan Kelly in the release.
"The power to surcharge will allow merchants to address their rising operating costs, push back against future credit card fee hikes and keep their prices competitive... With mounting pressures small businesses are facing due to inflation and government-imposed costs, surcharging is another way to reduce their cost burden."
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