The charge is on and consumers are not happy
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.