Many customers are being stung extra for simply paying by card.
Many customers are being stung extra for simply paying by card.

Aussies gouged for paying by card

Customers given no choice at check-outs but to pay by card are being slugged with sneaky - and often unadvertised - fees.

The pandemic has resulted in many merchants refusing to accept cash and instead requiring customers to swipe or tap at the checkout.

The card fees typically add 0.01 per cent to the cost.

For example, a $10 drink at a bar can often end up costing the customer $10.10 if they are forced to pay by card.

The Reserve Bank of Australia's deputy head of payments policy Chris Thompson said in line with consumer law, prices displayed by merchants must be "clear, accurate and not misleading".

"If a merchant is going to surcharge all types of card payments while not accepting cash, the posted price should include the minimum surcharge," he said.

"The advertised price should be achievable by at least one method of payment without an additional charge being put on top of it."

Despite much confusion by shoppers who have had cash payments refused at the checkout, merchants are legally allowed to knock back notes and coins.


Latest RBA statistics showed the decline in cash has continued during the pandemic.

In October last year there were almost 45 million ATM cash withdrawals worth $10.6 billion.

This has significantly fallen to 33.5 million ATM withdrawals worth $8.9 billion in October this year.

The competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said under consumer law a merchant does not have to offer a surcharge-free option to customers when they pay for goods or services.

But an ACCC spokesman said they cannot "charge consumers more than what it costs them to process a credit or debit card payment".

"Consumers can report misleading prices to the ACCC".

The penalties for making false or misleading representations start from $500,000 for individuals.

Consumer Action Law Centre's chief executive officer Gerard Brody said all businesses must disclose the surcharge clearly to the customer and it cannot be extortionate.

"The surcharge can only cover their costs of accepting card payments and if they are charging more than that then it's opening themselves up to a fine by the ACCC," he said.

"If businesses are advertising a product at a price the consumer should have a way of purchasing that product without imposing a surcharge."

Mr Brody said card payments were "more convenient for people" and it was important for "businesses to be clear and transparent with their pricing."

"Most customers don't like additional fees and surcharges so I'd encourage them to price inclusively rather than to be constantly adding on more and more," he said.