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Posthaste: Canadians balk at being forced to pay an extra fee for credit card purchases

Russia's Visa Inc. And Mastercard Inc. As Services Affected By U.S. Sanctions
Russia's Visa Inc. And Mastercard Inc. As Services Affected By U.S. Sanctions

Many Canadians, weary from a year of navigating the rising cost of living, say big companies planning to charge them a fee for paying with a credit card could end up losing their business.

More than two in five people say they’d take their money elsewhere if a major retailer, airline or telecom company charged them a 1.5 per cent processing fee to use a credit card for purchases, according to a survey from the Angus Reid Institute.  People are slightly more understanding when it comes to small businesses, however. A 1.5 per cent surcharge for using credit would result in 28 per cent finding another store to shop at.

It’s not only businesses that could suffer from the wrath of consumers forced to pay extra fees: the credit card giants face repercussions, too. Three in five people say they’d keep their credit cards in their wallet and pay with cash or debit instead if a big company tried to pass on the surcharge. In the case of small business customers, more than half would switch to another form of payment.

The implications are even bigger when it comes to credit cards attached to loyalty programs. Eighty-two per cent of people say their main credit cards are connected to a cash-back, points or other loyalty scheme, and many fear a surcharge could eat into their ability to collect those points. As a result, 61 per cent say a universal 1.5 per cent surcharge on purchases made with credit would be enough to stop them from using their cards completely.

“This data is pretty stark and pretty unequivocal,” Shachi Kurl, president of Angus Reid said in an interview on BNN Bloomberg. “Canadians are expressing that number 1, we’re really not able to absorb these costs. Number 2, we’re really not inclined to absorb these costs, and number 3, there can be consequences for businesses that impose those costs and for the credit card companies.”

That should give all the major players pause, she said, even as Canadians use credit cards more than ever. Cash has fallen out of favour since the start of the pandemic, fuelling a surge in credit card use, the survey said. Now, more than 60 per cent of people say they use credit for at least half of their purchases. That data is showing up in Canadians’ mounting credit card debt, with the average balance hitting a record $2,121, and usage at “historic highs,” Equifax Canada said in a report released Nov. 1.

Credit card companies charge businesses a processing fee of between 1.4 and 2.4 per cent for every sale made via credit. Retailers only recently received the power to pass on those fees to customers, as a result of a settlement in a class action lawsuit against Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. Until Oct. 6 of this year, companies had been forced to absorb the surcharges, a point of contention among small businesses in particular, who argued that the credit card giants were unfairly squeezing their already thin margins.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a small business lobby group, framed the ability to pass on the fee as a win for entrepreneurs. “Small businesses have long been dealing with expensive credit card processing fees and trying to find ways to absorb the cost of accepting premium cards without the ability to surcharge or refuse those cards,” Corinne Pohlmann, senior vice-president of national affairs at CFIB, said in a news release in October. “Surcharging gives them the ability to offset some of their costs and be transparent with their customers about the fees they pay.”

Dan Kelly, CFIB’s president, said the newfound power to pass on the fee would also help businesses “push back against future credit card fee hikes.”

However, many small business owners remain leery of implementing the charge. Only 20 per cent are planning to pass the fees on to their clients, and more than a quarter said they’d only implement the practice if their competitors or suppliers do, according to CFIB.

Among bigger companies, Telus Corp. is the only one so far that has opted to tack on a 1.5 per cent fee for credit-card payments, which would amount to an extra $1.58 on $100 worth of services.

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Greater Toronto Area home sales, listings and the composite benchmark price all declined both year over year and month over month in November, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board reported on Tuesday. Home sales fell by 49 per cent over last November and new listings declined by 11.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, the composite benchmark price tumbled 5.5 per cent to $1,089,800 from $1,163,323 in November 2021. Average price of all home types sold fell 7.2 per cent to $1,079,395 from $1,162,564 over the same time period.

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  • The Bank of Canada will release its latest monetary policy decision at 10 a.m.

  • The UN Biodiversity Conference continues in Montreal. Governments from around the world will come together to agree on a new set of goals to guide global actions through 2040 to protect and restore nature

  • Guylaine Leclerc, auditor general of Quebec, will release her December 2022 volume of the Report of the Auditor General of Quebec to the National Assembly for the year 2022-2023. This report addresses the following topics: Family allowance: supplements for disabled children; Awarding and monitoring of contracts at the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec; Distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic; and Hydro-Quebec: maintenance of electricity distribution network assets

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will hold a bilateral meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

  • Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault will receive thousands of messages from Canadians collected on Nature Canada’s NatureBus tour as COP15 begins. Guilbeault will deliver remarks on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

  • Sharon Kozicki, deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, will speak before the Institut de developpement urbain du Quebec

  • Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos will be announcing support through the Strategic Innovation Fund for MEDTEQ+’s envisAGE Network

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will participate in a discussion with members of the Environment and Climate Change Youth Council. Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault will also be in attendance

  • The standing committee on finance meets regarding the current state of fiscal federalism in Canada

  • The standing committee on agriculture and agri-food meet regarding the subject matter of Supplementary Estimates (B), 2022-23: Votes 1b, 5b and 10b under Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food. Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau appears

  • Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will hold a media availability on proposed legislation to modernize the Investment Canada Act. These changes represent the most significant updates of the ICA in more than a decade and will address evolving national security concerns

  • The Senate committee on national finance will hear from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland on the subject matter of Bill C-32, An Act to implement certain provisions of the fall economic statement tabled in Parliament on Nov. 3, 2022 and certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 7, 2022

  • Alberta cabinet ministers Matt Jones, Travis Toews and Jeremy Nixon take part in a press conference about inflation relief legislation

  • Doug Wylie, auditor general of Alberta, will release the Report of the Auditor General— November 2022, immediately following its tabling in the legislative assembly around 3 p.m.

  • Today’s data: U.S. productivity, consumer credit

  • Earnings: Dollarama Inc., Gamestop Corp., Campbell Soup Co.

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We aren’t born with the innate ability to manage our money, but we often aren’t taught it at home or at school either, so we are left to figure things out on our own, which can be a very long and bumpy road with some rough lessons from the School of Hard Knocks. Whether you believe you can carve your own path in life or that it takes a village and teamwork to find your way, no one is an island. Everyone has something to offer and finding those who have the skills or knowledge that you don’t have can be exactly the support you need in order to thrive. Sandra Fry offers her suggestions for the professional you can add to your network of experts who will look out for your best interests and consider all aspects of your financial goals.

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Today’s Posthaste was written by Victoria Wells (@vwells80), with additional reporting from The Canadian Press, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.

Have a story idea, pitch, embargoed report, or a suggestion for this newsletter? Email us at posthaste@postmedia.com, or hit reply to send us a note.

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