Forty States Allow Credit Card Purchase Surcharge

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Keep your eyes peeled the next time you're at the cash register because you could get hit with a new credit card surcharge.

Forty states are now allowing the new charges.

Every time someone uses a credit card, the card company charges that business a fee of up to 4 percent. Now it's legal for businesses to pass that fee on to you.

For example, a $400 laptop could cost you an extra $16, in addition to any state or local taxes. But retailers cannot charge the extra fee without letting the customer know.

"When you walk in, there has to be a sign conspicuously displayed indicating that they do surcharge," Adam Levin, chairman of Credit.com, said. "Then at the cash register and also on your receipt they have to clearly disclose what the surcharge is."

The surcharge applies to credit transactions only, not to debit card or prepaid card purchases.  Plus, the only cards affected are Visa and Mastercard -- not American Express or Discover.

Ten states have blocked businesses from passing the fees onto customers -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Meanwhile some big retailers, like Walmart and Home Depot, say they will continue to absorb them instead of passing them on.

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