Extra charges to make payments by card are never welcome, but do you expect your local council to charge you more? Sadly, we found many are doing just that.
When we first started our research into charges for paying by card, we had little idea of the extent to which these unpopular fees were levied.
It came as no surprise that budget airlines were among the worst offenders – many of you cited them in your responses to our earlier Conversation about being charged to pay by card. But we were flabbergasted to discover debit and credit card fees with Ryanair could total as much as 42% of your transaction value.
Equally, while travel agents have been known to impose surcharges, who could’ve predicted that one holiday with Saga could see you run up a whopping £470 charge to pay by credit card?
Councils making card charges
But most unexpected of all was discovering that over 50 local authorities around the country charge residents to make payments by card. This ranges from Council Tax to penalty charges for street littering and car parking tickets. Meals on wheels, school dinners, housing rents and registrars were other services that could also potentially attract a surcharge.
The argument about whether or not card charges should be imposed is a complex one – unfortunately there aren’t any easy answers.
Who should foot the cost?
From a merchant’s point of view, surcharges are seen as a fair way of passing on the costs of processing card payments to consumers. On the other hand, many believe these costs are part of doing business, and merchants should bear this burden themselves.
To confuse things further, the issue of processing costs is contentious in itself, involving banks, card providers and even governments.
From a consumer’s point of view, however, charges that claim to involve card processing costs can sometimes seem completely out of proportion to the transaction value.
Too often, surcharges may seem like an excuse for shameless profiteering. While councils may only be recuperating their costs in levying card charges, they’re doing little to end a culture of insidious hidden charges.