The good folks at Visa, Mastercard, and, of course, Amex may be able to enrich their coffers by penalizing their own cardholders for actually using the cards. This could have a major effect on the nation’s second largest industry, travel, since an estimated 92% of all transactions occur by credit card.

How did this likely scenario develop? Visa, Mastercard and a number of the nation’s largest banks agreed to a $7.25 billion settlement for the small, white collar crime of of conspiring to fix prices for processing credit card transactions. This huge verdict and admission of guilt by the credit card companies had an interesting outcome in that it has now paved the way for merchants to penalize customers who pay with a credit card.

Well how could this be the result of a settlement that clearly demonstrates that our major credit card networks were co-conspirators in price-fixing billions in travel and other category charges? Why aren’t the chief perpetrators going to the same place where we send former Illinois public servants?

Well here’s the rub. In the dispute, as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, testimony from merchants made it clear that they feel that the credit card networks are overcharging them and their customers. Travel agents, airlines, and hotels feel that way. So the answer may well be a new surcharge, with the court’s permission, that will allow merchants to charge for credit card transactions.

You really can’t make this stuff up. Each of the major banks, with one or two exceptions like Capital One, already penalizes travelers who have the gall to use their credit cards when they are traveling overseas or paying for travel arrangements processed through a non-US-based bank. It is called a Foreign Transaction Fee. It is normally a whopping 3% penalty on innocent travelers abroad.

We wonder what the new “any transaction fee” cards will be called. Perhaps the “we do it because we can”fee.