THE tourism industry will benefit from a ban on surcharge rates levied on credit card users, says the Consumer Council of Fiji.
Responding to questions from this newspaper, council chief executive Premila Kumar yesterday said surcharge fees deterred tourists from using their credit cards.
"Removing surcharges will actually help attract more tourists because the cost of travelling to and spending money in Fiji will be lowered," she said.
She urged credit card consumers to use the services of merchants or retailers that did not impose surcharge fees. "It is very important to note that when consumers open a credit card account with a bank, they sign an agreement with the bank in which fees and charges are disclosed. Merchant surcharges are not part of this agreement," she said.
Merchants paid a minimal fee to banks for having a credit card facility, but gained via increase in customers, she said.
"The availability of credit card payment options at a retail outlet draws customers to that outlet," Mrs Kumar said.
At the risk of incurring surcharge fees, merchants that offered credit card facilities benefitted by:
* lowering the risk of fraud or theft — with less cash on the premises;
* reducing cost through less paperwork as everything was electronically transacted and recorded; and
* an increase in patronage and improved public image because they offered more than one payment option.
She said banks needed to charge a fee in order to pay the credit card network like VISA or MasterCard.
"For credit surcharge fees, it is an issue between the merchant and the customer where the merchant charges the credit card holder for using the credit at the merchants premises.
"Banks already have a no surcharge rule on their merchants. Merchants pay for having a credit card facility.
"The credit facility is an asset to the merchants, consider it as an investment they make."