Extra charges for paying by debit or credit card are to be banned in a government move that could save consumers as much as £500 million a year.

The worst offenders are airlines, food delivery apps and small businesses which typically add a fee for cards.

Travel agents, Eurostar and ticket booking websites were also exposed by The Times last year for levying fess of up to 3.5%.

Businesses will not be allowed to add any surcharges for card payments from January next year.

The Treasury said: “The government is unveiling new rules that will mean card-charging in Britain – where people can be charged 20% extra for purchases like a flight just for paying with a credit card – will come to an end in January.”

“‘Surcharging’ is common practice across the country – with businesses ranging from takeaway apps to global airlines charging people to make card payments or for other services such as Paypal.

“While many industries have acted to absorb the cost and not pass these on to consumers, these rules will bring an end to the practice entirely.”

Consumers spent £473 million on such charges in 2010 alone, according to estimates by the Treasury.

The action follows a directive from the European Union, which bans surcharges on Visa and Mastercard payments.

And the government has gone further than the directive, by also banning charges on American Express and Paypal.

At the moment those booking airline tickets with credit cards pay an extra 3% with Flybe, with a minimum payment of £5.

Ryanair and Norwegian passengers pay 2%.

However, Flybe has already promised to abolish the minimum payment, and cut its charges.

Several airlines, including Monarch and British Airways, have reduced their charges in the last year.

Some small shops charge a fee for the use of a card – but they are also have to pay more to the banks for processing such transactions.

Announcing the crackdown, Stephen Barclay, economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “Rip-off charges have no place in a modern Britain and that’s why card charging in Britain is about to come to an end.

“This is about fairness and transparency, and so from next year there will be no more nasty surprises for people at the checkout just for using a card.

“These small charges can really add up and this change will mean shoppers have that bit of extra cash to spend on the things that matter to them.”

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