• Consumers are moving to contactless payments to avoid touching money and credit card terminals
  • Consumers understand prices going up because of inflation but don't like itemized surcharges
  • An unpublished American Express survey indicated 86% of consumers reject surcharges

As businesses across the country are attempting to get back to some semblance of normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic, costs for personal protective gear and the toll social distancing will take on traffic are mounting, prompting many to impose COVID-19 surcharges on customers’ bills. reports though businesses view the charges as essential, customer anger is growing over the levies, which range as low as $3 for sanitation services at some salons to $15 in some dental offices to 5% at restaurants to reflect the increasing cost of ingredients.

Consumers understand inflation – they don’t like it but understand when businesses raise prices because costs go up over time – and don’t even notice.

“Over time, higher prices are seen as a cost of doing business. You may not be excited about paying $3 more for a haircut, but I think most people are realistic about the fact that things cost more over time, and prices can’t stay the same forever,” Ted Rossman of said in a blog post.

Surcharges, however, present a public relations problem, making customers feel as though merchants don’t appreciate their business.

“Whether we’re talking COVID, health insurance or credit cards, trying to raise revenue with an itemized surcharge is a turn-off for customers, and any short-term benefit to the merchant is greatly outweighed by the longer-term consequences of offending the people who pay the bills,” Rossman said.

“It's something that we're going to be seeing a lot of that we probably did not expect,” Julie Immer, who noticed a $9.95 COVID-19 surcharge on her bill when she took her dog to a veterinarian, told St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK. “It kind of makes sense on the one hand, but on the other hand, there's a lot of people that are unemployed right now and can barely afford vet bills as it is.”

Forty-six states allow businesses to charge credit card customers more, but 78% of credit cardholders say it’s unfair to impose a fee on the way people pay their bills, especially since many are shifting to contactless payment methods to avoid touching cash and credit card terminals.

An as-yet-unreleased survey by American Express indicates 86% of credit card users reject surcharges. When some restaurants in New York attempted to eliminate tipping and cover the cost of health insurance by raising menu prices, both customers and servers rebelled, forcing the eateries to go back to the old model.

“Surcharges are generally allowed, however burdensome they might be, because customers are agreeing to the terms of whatever item or service they’re purchasing when they purchase it. Basically, consumers should be aware that additional charges might be incurred during this time due to the pandemic and should be ready to review new policies in clear terms before making purchases,” said Nathan Grant of