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Credit card surcharge fees: How new rules affect customers

If you live in Ontario, you may soon notice an extra fee on your receipt. Here’s how the new credit card surcharge affects customers and how to beat the fees.

31 October 2022Tassie Milne 3 min read
Woman paying for something with a credit card
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

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Are you (like many Canadians) a fan of paying with your credit card? You may soon notice an extra fee appear on your receipt. Retailers and other businesses in Canada are now allowed to charge customers a fee every time they swipe their card once notice is given to the credit card companies.

Credit cards have become a favoured payment method by consumers because of their ease of use and ability to help you rack up rewards. But merchants, on the other hand, have experienced long-standing friction with the card companies because of the original agreements, where stores were forced to give a percentage of every sale to the card providers. The fee that merchants paid could range from fractions of a percentage to more than 2% for some premium credit cards.

The legislation change comes at an inopportune time, with inflation at record highs – and Canadians are feeling the crunch of rising costs. On the other hand, many small business owners have been left gauged by the Covid-19 pandemic and already operate on thin margins to begin with.

The original agreements also prevented merchants from passing the fee to the customers, which changed earlier this year. In the latest Ontario credit card news, MasterCard, Visa and other card providers finally settled the lawsuit on the issue in Canada – agreeing to rebate merchants $188 million for "interchange" fees that merchants were charged in the last decade.

As of Oct. 6, 2022, merchants must give card providers 30 days' notice if they want to start passing the fee to customers. So, whether or not you start seeing the surcharge will depend on whether the merchant chooses to implement it and when they give notice to the card companies.

Merchants must also make it clear to customers that it's a surcharge and it can't be more than what the total pay was itself.

Finally, the surcharge is capped at 2.4%. Another thing to note is that these rules will not be implemented in the province of Quebec because this type of fee goes against the province's Consumer Protection Act.

While we don't know which merchants will or won't be charging the fee, it's safe to say that the ones who have been hit the hardest in the last few years may be more inclined to offload the card company fees.

Take your local restaurant, for example, which may have just barely survived the pandemic. As an example, let's say you and another person go out for dinner. Between drinks, an appetizer, two main courses and dessert, you're likely looking at a bill of roughly $150. So, if you were charged 2.4%, that would equal an additional $3.60.

While it may seem like a small amount, just a few dollars can add up over time. If you did the same thing once a week for a year, you'd spend about $172 in surcharge fees – and that only includes what you're spending at restaurants and not at any of the other businesses you frequent.

There are a few ways you can avoid getting dinged with these surcharges without avoiding your favourite stores and restaurants. You can:

  • Carry some cash in your wallet so you can avoid getting caught in a jam if you're used to making small purchases with your credit card (as the surcharge can't be more than the overall pay)
  • Use your debit card if you know the merchant doesn't foot the surcharge
  • Opt for a great cash-back credit card to offset the new fee

When you check your free credit score using ClearScore, you'll be able to see clear, personalized insights about your credit score. Also, you can see some of the best credit cards for you in Canada and how likely you’ll be approved for them – because there’s no time like the present to start earning rewards or cash-back to make life just a little more affordable.

Next step: Start comparing credit cards with ClearScore today.

Tassie Milne Image

Written by Tassie Milne

General Manager - ClearScore Canada

Tassie heads up ClearScore Canada. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two young boys. In her free time, she can be found at the family lake house or playing ball hockey.