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Paying With a Credit Card? It’s Going to Cost You.


It is getting more expensive to pay for things with a credit card.

More small businesses—and even some larger ones—are charging shoppers a fee for credit-card purchases or offering them discounts when they pay with debit cards, cash or checks. The moves are meant to offset the various fees businesses pay on credit-card transactions, costs that have grown alongside generous cash-back and travel rewards.

Data on cash discounting is hard to come by, and less than 5% of 8 million card-accepting small businesses in the U.S. charge fees for credit-card payments, according to estimates from payments consultancy the Strawhecker Group. But that share has risen steadily in recent years. Five years ago, an estimated 2% or less of businesses charged fees on credit-card purchases.

The coronavirus accelerated the shift, sending businesses in search of revenue to make up for sales lost in the pandemic’s early months. CardX LLC said more than 6,400 merchants—most of them online businesses—use its surcharge-calculating software, up from 4,030 a year ago and 2,380 in 2019.

“More merchants have turned toward making those costs transparent to the consumer,” said John Drechny, chief executive of the Merchant Advisory Group, which represents U.S. merchants on payments issues.

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