Credit card surcharge crackdown: ACCC takes Europcar to court
The regulator gets serious, plus our best tips for avoiding credit card surcharges on flights.
Two years after first telling businesses they couldn't charge credit card surcharges that were higher than the actual cost of processing them, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched its first court case over alleged excessive charges.
The regulator alleges that rental car company Europcar imposed excessive surcharge fees on both credit cards and debit cards during 2017. "The alleged conduct by Europcar in relation to its surcharge rates is particularly concerning, given we will allege that it was well aware of its own cost of acceptance from at least July 2017," ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement announcing the legal action.
"The ACCC's action serves as a warning that the ACCC is paying close attention to those businesses who seek to overcharge customers making payments by credit or debit cards," Sims said.
Whatever the outcome, it's clear the ACCC is keeping a close eye on credit card surcharges. But while it's good that these charges are capped, is it worth trying to avoid them altogether?
How can I avoid credit card surcharges?
Credit card surcharges present an interesting dilemma for frequent flyers. Paying for flights with a credit card helps you earn points, but means you're stuck with paying the surcharge.
The only credit cards on the Australian market that specifically let you avoid airline surcharges that I'm aware of are the Jetstar Mastercard and Jetstar Platinum Mastercard. Even then, you'll pay the surcharge if you book on any airline other than Jetstar (and if you're trying to earn lots of points, it's likely you'll be doing that).
Given that surcharges are capped, it's often the case that paying them, while annoying, is worth it because of the extra points you earn. That's especially the case on cards which offer extra points per $1 spent for flight bookings with a specific airline, such as the Qantas Premier Everyday Mastercard.
For really cheap flights with non-partner airlines (I'm thinking Tigerair sales, folks), then choosing a surcharge-free option can make sense. For Tigerair, that means paying with POLi. However, most frequent flyers will be better off finding a card that earns with their preferred airline, and then building their total.
For more background on credit card surcharges and how to avoid them, our full guide is the place to start.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.