Checkout Fees: Are You Being Charged?

iStock_000017073811XSmall-300x199According to an article by the Electronic Payments Coalition, merchants have gained the ability to tag on additional fees to your purchase when you use a credit card through a term settlement. In states such as California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas, surcharging will remain illegal due to the state law. It is encouraged that residents of these states report any evidence of retailer checkout fees to their state attorney general.

As a shopper you have rights and you want to be aware of a few things when you are visiting other places where surcharging may be allowed:

  • Merchants are only allowed to assess a fee that is equivalent to what they pay to accept credit cards – which in the U.S. is typically between 1.5%-3%.
  • Consumers can only be charged checkout fees for credit card usage. Merchants cannot charge customers for the use of their debit card.
  • Merchants must provide “clear disclosure” of any checkout fees at their store entry and at the point of sale or on their first page if it is an online environment.
  • The disclosure must list the amount of the surcharge, that the charge is being imposed by the merchant, and that the surcharge is not greater than the cost merchants pay to accept cards.
  • Merchants must also provide “clear disclosure” of the dollar amount of the checkout fee on the transaction receipt.

Some countries, such as Australia, have illegally turned the surcharge fees into an automatic profit source. In order to prevent fraudulent charges, The Reserve Bank of Australia put a cap on the amount that retailers could legally charge. Shoppers should know that this settlement was put forth to prevent retailers from charging excessive fees and any fees that are over the prescribed amount are illegal.

Here at First Financial, we provide our members with low-cost convenience. We offer a free checking account equipped with a First Access Debit Card, verified by VISA®*. In addition, First Financial also has a low rate VISA® Platinum Credit Card available for its members who qualify, to help with personal finances**. For more information about our Debit & Credit Card features and services, please visit our website or give us a call at 866.750.0100.

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

**Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA® Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

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FTC Offers Warning, Advice on Tax-Related Identity Theft

Tips For Consumers

Did you know that your Social Security number can help an identity thief get a job, or the tax refund that should be yours?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, cautions that thieves can use a stolen Social Security number to apply for a job or file for a tax refund under a false identity. The FTC advises that, if you think this has happened to you, or if you get an Internal Revenue Service notice indicating a problem, contact the IRS immediately for help with your tax return, any refund, and protecting your IRS account from identity theft in the future.

alert-resized-600The FTC also recommends three steps to minimize the potential damage from identity theft:

  • Put a fraud alert on your credit reports
  • Review your credit reports
  • Create an identity theft report by filing an identity theft complaint with the FTC and filing a police report.

Read the FTC’s Tax-Related Identity Theft to learn how to uncover and deal with this problem, how to avoid phishing scams, and how to contact the IRS.

For more information, visit the FTC’s identity theft website.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

We urge you to constantly be on the lookout for identity thieves and to always protect your personal and account information. Do not hesitate to call our Member Service Center at 866.750.0100 or stop into one of our branches.