/ Money

Stop charging us to pay by card

Debit card

Why do extra charges for paying by card always pop up at the final stage of online shopping? Why don’t they get absorbed into the overall cost so we don’t get unwelcome – and unfair – charges added to our bills.

When recently buying a budget flight to Istanbul, I rightly expected to be bombarded with recommendations for pricey hotels and expensive cars for hire.

A few deft clicks in ‘No Thanks’ boxes – it’s obvious a night at the Hilton or the keys to a Humvee aren’t part of my budget – and I avoided some key assaults on my wallet. But what about the costs you can’t avoid?

It might be fair to pay for extra luggage, but what about paying for – well – making a payment? The airline charged me £3.50 for having the cheek to use that most rare and awkward of payment methods, the Visa debit card.

Companies who charge you to pay by card – airlines being among the worst culprits – often claim these charges reflect the costs they incur for processing card payments. But processing payments is an unavoidable part of buying a flight online, so why isn’t it absorbed into the normal price for the flight?

By the same logic, should we expect an itemised bill showing the added expense of having wings fitted on the plane?

Of course, certain budget airlines point to niche payment methods where you can dodge these charges, such as Ryanair and prepaid Mastercards. But is it fair to advertise a price when the majority of people don’t have the payment method that makes them eligible for it?

Either way, I was in need of a holiday and begrudgingly paid the £3.50. I can’t pretend I walked the streets of Istanbul worrying about it, nor did I lay awake at night listening to the waves crashing on the Bosphorous, contemplating what untold wonders £3.50 might have afforded me in the bazaars. Even so, I’d prefer a system that treats all cardholders equally.

Isn’t it about time companies stopped charging us to pay by card? What’s the worst charging offence that you’ve suffered in the past?

Han says:
14 July 2010

This is sooo true. Ryanair are teh worst – they charge you a fee on using ANY credit or debit card – but the fee is per ticket you purchase its SUCH a rip off.


I think this is true – but that said, I think shops are right to insist that they don't take American Express. As I understand it, the model for AmEx is that they charge the retailer an extra one or two percent, and then give it back to users as cashback. So, basically, they're making it so that their users pay a percentage less than everyone else.

Why should I subsidise other people's purchases, just because they choose to use a card that is deliberately made more expensive for the good people offering their goods or services?


As I have been around some time. I remember when it was against the law for retailers to charge extra for you using a Credit Card.

Peter Taylor says:
23 July 2010

I think it is still against the law to offer goods at a different price for paying by card. Businesses get around this law by charging the same price for cash or card, but then adding on a "handling charge" for making a payment by Credit Card.

Ann Hay says:
15 July 2010

If the threatened death of the cheque book comes about, how are we expected to pay for things then ? Wadges of cash ? That's asking to be mugged.

Toneboy says:
15 July 2010

This is a steadily creeping practise and if you do any online or teleshopping then there is a good chance you now be hit with a credit card processing charge from around 50p thru to £3.50. Some will just charge a flat fee for the whole transaction where as others will charge a fee per ticket purchased, normally airlines or theatre companies.

I am led to believe that the card companies charge the retailer around 34p per transaction, so it would appear these retailer and service providers are using card processing charges as a pure revenue stream.

I object to this, but like many others feel I am powerless to stop the process other than refusing to do business with the organization, but it is not always the solution if you need that service or item and the retailer is the only one providing it.

Perhaps Which should make this a campaign issue.


We are encouraged to carry less cash, and find fewer places to pay by cheque so the banks will get their own greedy way again and again once they have forced us to pay larger amounts by card. The solution will be 'contact' cards paying for many items, but they will then charge for that once enough of us switch. But remember they only charge us because most of us find it easier and more convenient to use them.

Ian Dow says:
23 July 2010

Having been involved in a business that handles both cash & credit cards, it costs more to process cash than it does to handle credit cards. You need more staff time to handle the cash, and the bank charges more as well. These charges are becoming more common and they are not justified. It is just another way of making the basic price look cheaper than that of the competition, when it is not true.

Neil Lucas says:
23 July 2010

Travel industry firms continue to go bust leaving customers to be refunded by ABTA etc, but if you book your own travel arrangements separately (not as a package) you run a greater risk of loss unless you pay by credit card. Debit cards might be cheaper with the online travel industry but don't give any protection. I don't like paying extra for credit card but sometimes its worth it for the added protection.