Starting tomorrow, January 27, retailers have the option of charging a credit card checkout fee. This means you could be charged anywhere from 1.5 percent to 4 percent just for the privilege of using your credit card.

Here’s a brief summary about where this fee originated. This past summer, there was an antitrust settlement between merchants and Visa, MasterCard, and big banks over credit card interchange fees. Interchange fees are the “swipe” fees merchants pay to the networks (like MasterCard and Visa) to process your payments when you purchase something.

The settlement gave merchants (this means both store and Internet retailers) the legal right to add this checkout fee when a customer uses a credit card. It’s designed to help retailers recoup some of their interchange fee expenses. So if you purchase an item that costs $100, you could end up paying a $4 checkout fee.

Well, guess what? I don’t give a flyin’ flip about retailers’ expenses. I’m not paying this fee and I encourage you to take the same stance. Hey, we’re all still waiting for the lower prices that retailers promised us when debit card interchange fees were capped.

I wrote about the credit card checkout fees in my column for Wise Bread this past week. The very next day,  MSN Money ran my column. It’s a hot topic and rightfully so. You can read my column, Be on the Lookout for Credit Card Checkout Fees, which includes a lot more detail, including the possible impact on rewards credit cards.

Or just take a look at the bullet points below so you know enough to protect yourself.

  • Merchants who charge the checkout fee have to disclose it. If you’re in a store, look for notification near the front door or at the cash register. On a website, it has to be disclosed on the home page.
  • If you live in one of these 10 states, the checkout fee is banned: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas.
  • The checkout fee can be only be charged when you use a credit card or a charge card. You can’t be asked to pay this fee if you use a debit card.
Related:  Credit Card Penalty Payments Are On the Way

As consumers, we really have a lot of power if we band together. Vote with your feet (or fingers if you’re online) and just say no to credit card checkout fees.

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