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Hidden credit card fees go up

Heard about the hidden credit card fees climbing as fast as the price of gas? Yes, card interchange fees tripled to reach $2.50 or more each fillup.

"It's amazing," said Joe DePinto, chief executive of convenience store giant 7-Eleven Inc. "Visa and MasterCard now make as much as we do when we sell a gallon of gas."

Other stores say the roughly 10 cents a gallon they hand over to card companies is twice their profit selling gas.

Retailers pay interchange fees — 2 percent of the purchase price but sometimes more — which are baked into the retail price of most everything put on plastic.

The average America household will pay $427 in interchange fees this year, up from $159 in 2001.

Retailers who whined for years about this finally have a sympathetic election-year ear in Congress. Bills just introduced in both houses would require the card cartels negotiate fees with retailers, not just dictate them.

Last time I wrote on this, a reader said there's nothing to stop retailers from keeping any savings. He preferred rewards or rebates. At least it's a sure thing.

True. But can't we hope for something less convoluted, like letting the market sort out stores that lower prices from the noncompetitive? Besides, doesn't it make sense to buy what you actually want with your $427 instead of waiting for a loyalty program to offer something like it at a tiny discount in reward-point funny-money?

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or 727-893-8252.

Hidden credit card fees go up 06/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 11:51am]

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