Photo: Flickr / Pondspider
Friday the thirteenth was indeed unlucky for consumers this month, when a landmark settlement was reached between Visa, MasterCard and handful of U.S. retailers. The settlement will allow retailers to extend the swipe or checkout fee charge associated with credit card use onto the customer.Not all retailers are elated about this decision, however. Target was quick to publicly denounce the decision and committed to covering the cost of these fees. However, other retailers will surely take advantage of this new option, so consumers should consider the following ways to avoid plastic fees.
In addition to dodging these swipe fees, consumers who use cash are more likely to save money on everyday expenses. Why? Parting with cash is much harder than swiping a card since the effects on your wallet are immediate.
Buy Discount Gift Cards
Gift cards are just as convenient as credit cards at checkout and they will help you avoid those pesky surcharges. Sites like GiftCardGranny.com offer discount gift cards–up to 30 per cent off the face value–on everything from apparel to groceries to home improvement supplies, making it easy to use plastic while saving money.
Avoid Multiple Shopping Trips
The more trips to the store, the more you’ll likely swipe your card and keep adding fees to your account. Now’s the time to get organised about your errands so you avoid paying more surcharges than necessary.
Use Your Debit Card
If you can’t get behind the cash train, use your debit card for the same convenience as credit cards but without the swipe fees. Just remember to keep a close eye on your account balance to avoid overage charges. You should also consider inquiring about any special reward programs your bank offers for debit card purchases.
Use Award-rich Credit Cards
Stopping use of credit cards altogether is unrealistic, so be sure the cards you’re using offer rewards and benefits that offset the swipe fees you may incur. Average fees range between one and three per cent, so look for cards that offer cash back within or beyond that range. The Chase Freedom Visa, for example, offers five per cent cash back on things like gas, groceries and department store purchases every quarter.
Search for Coupons
Saving 50 cents on an item may not seem worth the time it takes to clip the coupon, but it will offset the two to three per cent swipe fee on small purchases. Getting in the habit of using coupons will save you a ton of money over time, so there’s really no downside to this practice! The best part is that now you can get free coupons sent directly to your phone. Stores like Target will text message you these digital coupons or you can access them via free mobile coupon apps.
Despite the settlement, it’s still illegal to for retailers to charge consumers with swipe fees in Calif., Colo., Conn., Fla., Kan., Maine, Mass., N.Y., Okla., and Texas. However, that doesn’t mean retailers in these states won’t increase product prices to cover these fees or offer a cash discount as we see gas stations frequently offering. Ultimately, it’s up to you to compare prices and find the best deal. Get help from barcode scanning apps like RedLaser and price comparison sites like PriceGrabber, which will navigate you to those lower prices instantly.