Cashing in on credit use

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:09 PM

In an informal telephone survey of local businesses, there was no “to surcharge with love” sentiment. In fact, many shop owners and managers contacted by the Tribune had not heard of the ruling that took effect last week.

Those that were familiar with the change said they have no intention of implementing additional charges, even though it is now legal to do it.

“I don't want to do anything to deter people from coming to my business,” said Chris Weavers, owner of JW's Food & Spirit in Grand Haven. “As tempted as I am, my conscience and my business sense says that's not smart. The risk versus benefit is not there for me.”

The optional surcharge is the result of a legal battle between merchants and credit card companies. The lawsuit was settled in July 2012, giving merchants $7.2 billion in cash, temporary reductions in interchange fees, and the legal right to add a “checkout fee” for using Visa and MasterCard to make a purchase.

Target, Wal-Mart and Sears officials said they will not flirt with surcharges.

Joy Gaasch, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, said she is not aware of any local merchants who have implemented new credit card fees.

“A lot of service providers have gone to cash or checks,” she said. “They didn't want to charge extra, but they also didn't want to get charged the service fee.”

Businesses have to pay the credit card companies a couple of pennies for each dollar on a purchase via plastic.

Gaasch said the Chamber of Commerce is also looking at its options.

“We were looking at ways we could cut our credit card fees by going with some other type rather than traditional credit card processing companies,” she said. “It will be very interesting to see how many folks actually add the credit card processing fee. In pricing merchandise, the overhead of running a business is factored into your pricing.”

Weavers said JW's pays close to $1,500 a month in credit card fees, but she considers it part of the cost of doing business.

“The money I pay every year to accept credit cards is insane,” she said. “But conversely, if I didn't take them, those people may not come in. Everyone is so credit/debit card-driven these days they don't pay cash anymore.

"I don't want the method of payment to be a reason for them to not come to me," Weavers added. "I want to make it as easy as possible for customers to spend money here.”

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.


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