The charge is on and con­sumers are not happy

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LISA ALLEN

WHAT is it with credit card sur­charges? The funky new QT Sydney ho­tel re­quires guests to pay a whop­ping 3.5 per cent credit card fee to set­tle ac­counts with Din­ers, Amer­i­can Ex­press or JCB cards. Those with Visa or Master­Cards are slugged 1.5 per cent, ac­cord­ing to the QT Sydney web­site. For the record, the QT Ho­tels group says the trans­ac­tion fees re­flect bank charges in­curred for card pay­ments.

One in­dig­nant Travel & In­dul­gence reader, re­tired Vic­to­rian bu­reau­crat Peter Mad­den, notes the sur­charge trend is gain­ing a foothold at North­ern Ter­ri­tory prop­er­ties, not just for Amex and Din­ers charge cards, but all credit cards.

‘‘Ev­ery re­tail out­let in Aus­tralia ac­cepts pay­ment by credit card and the mer­chant fee is fac­tored into all mar­gins — the same as their other over­heads — so what is this grubby lit­tle grab all about?’’ asks Mad­den, who has been query­ing ho­tel staff about the prac­tice. He claims most ‘‘be­come a bit eva­sive and mum­ble that it is a grow­ing trend and that ‘ev­ery­body is do­ing it’ ’’.

‘‘What it will do, if the habit grows,’’ he con­tin­ues, ‘‘is sim­ply en­cour­age [older trav­ellers] to carry a lot more cash as we just don’t like these lit­tle rip-offs. Apart from se­cu­rity con­cerns, it also means that re­sorts in re­mote places have a big­ger bank­ing prob­lem . . . Are they just crazy, or what?’’ Even some car­a­van park op­er­a­tors, says Mad­den, are charg­ing guests credit card sur­charges un­less they pay cash.

One of the largest ho­tel chains oper­at­ing in Aus­tralia, Ac­cor, which cov­ers the Mer­cure, Ibis, Sof­i­tel, Pull­man, MGallery and Novo­tel brands, says it charges 1.5 per cent. ‘‘We ob­vi­ously take a hit on those credit cards that charge us more than that,’’ an Ac­cor spokesman says. ‘‘The sur­charge was added quite a long time ago, when credit cards started be­com­ing the nor­mal means of pay­ment, be­cause it was an ad­di­tional charge to the busi­ness. Some ho­tels charge more than 1.5 per cent, but we set the fee at the mid­dle level so that it just re­coups the costs im­posed upon us.’’

At least it’s only 1.5 per cent. Vir­gin adds a $10 book­ing and ser­vice fee for on­line pur­chases, while pop­u­lar web­site wo­tif.com levies a $4 book­ing fee.

Of course, fre­quent vis­i­tors to Bali are ac­cus­tomed to pay­ing 3 per cent credit card fees on just about ev­ery­thing — ei­ther that, or lug around thick wads of ru­piah notes.

So if it’s, say, a caf­tan pur­chased at a trendy shop in Seminyak or the oblig­a­tory $US25 visa fee payable at Ngu­rah Rai air­port, the prac­tice of ap­ply­ing a 3 per cent sur­charge on credit card use is deeply em­bed­ded in the psy­che of most Ba­li­nese re­tail­ers and ser­vice providers.

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