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Qantas’ will soon impose percentage-based credit card fees on flight bookings. From September, surcharges on card payments must reflect the amount it costs a retailer to process the transaction. Photo: Joe Armao
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Qantas’ business and first class passengers will see credit card booking fees more than double under the new system.

Most Qantas customers will pay the same or less in card fees fees than they do under the current payment system. Photo: Jim Rice

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Qantas has overhauled its card payment fees – but customers booking domestic and trans-Tasman flights of more than $535 and international flights exceeding $2300 won’t realise any benefits.

In the wake of the Reserve Bank’s ban on fixed surcharges that don’t reflect the actual transaction cost, Qantas has announced the introduction of a new card payment regime that uses percentage-based rather than flat fees.

From September, a jetsetter using a credit card to nab Qantas flights will be hit with a 1.3 per cent surcharge, rather than a $7 flat fee for domestic and trans-Tasman flights, and a $30 flat fee for international trips.

The new percentage-based fees are capped at $11 for local flights and $70 for international.

While the national carrier says most of its customers will “pay the same or less in fees than they do under the current system”, quick calculations show the benefits are skewed towards short economy flights on the east coast when the fare is less than $535.

David Flynn, editor of Australian Business Traveller, said the new scheme will see international business class and first class travellers paying more than double for bookings.

“For example, a Sydney-Singapore business class return flight with Qantas currently attracts a $30 booking fee,” he said.

“But based on an average fare of $6,000 for a business saver ticket, the booking fee from September will more than double to hit that $70 ceiling.”

Payments made using a debit card will attract a surcharge of 0.6 per cent.

The fee structure change follows the Reserve Bank’s announcement in May that from September 1 merchants can only impose a card payment surcharge that reflects the true cost of the transaction. The move was made in a bid to curb excessive surcharges.

Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which will be enforcing the rules, said he believed business should only be charging 0.5 per cent for debit card transactions and 1 to 1.5 per cent for credit cards.

Consumer advocacy group Choice earlier this year said Qantas’ $7 card surcharge on a cheap flight was 348 per cent more than the likely cost of the transaction of $1.56, while Jetstar’s $8.50 surcharge accounted for a mark-up of 1187 per cent on the likely cost of 66 cents.

Choice ­estimated Qantas was reaping $100 million more than its cost of accepting card payments.

Its spokesman Tom Godfrey said Qantas’ move was “encouraging”, considering it had ignored previous RBA rules banning excessive surcharges for years.

“This decision clearly reflects Qantas’s commitment to gouging consumers for as long as possible, with the lower fees not taking effect for another two months,” he said.

“They’ve been charging high fees for years and have only changed their ways after a lengthy campaign from Choice and new federal laws to prevent online card payment rip-offs.”

During a Senate Inquiry late last year, Qantas defended the surcharges, saying it was only recovering 81 per cent of the reasonable cost of card acceptance in 2014 and 2015.

Qantas said the new fees reflected the cost of card acceptance, which included merchant service fees charged by banks, acquiring and payment processing services and fraud mitigation costs.

Mr Sims from the ACCC said airlines would be free to raise their fares to compensate for cuts to excessive surcharges, but argued competition will limit any such move.

It’s understood Qantas’ budget airline Jetstar is making changes to its own card payment system. Qantas’ card payment fees on and after September 1Credit/charge cards – 1.3 per cent, capped at $11 for domestic and $70 for internationalDebit/prepaid cards – 0.6 per cent, capped at $11 for domestic and $70 for internationalFee free options – POLi, BPAY for bookings made at least seven days before departure, Qantas UATP, or credit voucher

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