By now you’ve probably heard the news that it’s a-ok (legally, anyway) for merchants to tack an additional surcharge onto your Visa and Mastercard purchases when you shop in their stores. If you were already aware that this legislation was coming down the pike, you’re more financially informed than me. When I woke up on January 27th to the news that all of my daily purchases could potentially cost my 4% more, I nearly had a heart attack. For a few hours I was in an outright panic.
Why you ask? Well, I’m one of the many, many Americans who uses a credit card for every purchase that I possibly can because I love the rewards my credit card offers. I’ve basically designed my whole monthly budget around my credit card bill’s due date so that I can be sure to get maximum without having to pay interest charges. So the idea that the price of nearly every purchase I make would be increasing by 4% starting right now was nauseating. Think I’m being dramatic? Let’s look at a typical weekend’s charges to see how these charges would affect my bottom line:
- Trader Joe’s – $46.71
- CVS – $10.99
- Restaurant – $22.89
- Gas station – $44.63
- Bagel – $2.49
- Target – $15.55
Total with additional 4% surcharge: $148.99
So in one weekend, I would have been out an extra $5.73 if I had been charged an additional 4% on every purchase. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but what about over the course of a year? If this represents a typical weekend’s spending, by the end of the year I would have paid an additional $297.96 on my usual purchases. Over five years? $1,489.80! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend that money on a nice vacation than a bunch of silly fees.
Luckily, it seems unlikely that most merchants probably won’t be exercising their legal ability to charge me an extra 4% on my Mastercard purchases. In a world where competition from online retailers is fierce and social media will rapidly get the word out about stores that do start tacking on surcharges, most are opting not to. But this little scare was a good reminder to me about the insidiousness of small price increases and the importance of being sure that I pay attention to the fine print. After doing the math on the impact that a 4% price increase would have on my bottom line, I’m going to be especially careful that I’m not needlessly overpaying for day-to-day items, surcharges or no.
So be sure that you’re paying attention to the little details of your spending – after all, there could be a vacation hiding in there somewhere!