UPDATE: Requiring Minimum Credit Card Purchases is a Violation

We’re scratching our heads and going in circles and starting to get dizzy.

We wanted to get clarification on whether merchants are allowed to say you must purchase a minimum amount in order to use a credit card. We called up VISA. The CSR said that it was definitely illegal and in violation. She said that if you had a problem with the fee, you need to file call your bank to whom your credit card is tied to and file an incident report. When pressed further to find out what sort of punitive measures the bank might take, the rep stonewalled us and kept telling us to talk to our bank. She said she didn’t have that info and refused to transfer us to someone who did.

We then called Washington Mutual. A tier 1 rep, after checking with her supervisor and credit card services, said that stores are allowed to require a minimum charge to cover the transaction fee they have to incur.

When we noted out that this directly contradicts the rules issued by VISA (see pg 14), she told us to call VISA. We pointed out that VISA told us to call our local bank. The rep said, “Well I don’t know what to tell you then.”

What’s the deal?

UPDATE: We went back to VISA with the new info. A friendly Southern man told us that it was definitely a violation of the rules. He also said, “The banks are VISA, let’s put it that way.” Good to know. When we pressed for more clarification and told him about the merchant guidelines document, we were put on hold several times.

Then he hung up on us.

Previously: Requiring Minimum Credit Card Purchases is a Violation

Comments

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  1. Please don’t give up on this topic. It would be a big help for me to not have to spend $10 everytime I go out to my local bar – I mean….charity … store.

  2. ValkRaider says:

    It is a violation with American Express as well, AFAIK. Please keep up the investigation!

  3. Ben says:

    I’ve seen ‘minimum purchase’ signs in stores, and it seems I see them a lot less now that everybody and their dog takes credit cards (it wasn’t that long ago that it was a Big Deal for a fast food place to take plastic, for example)

    I really haven’t given it much thought. Hmm.

  4. Apparently, this is a violation across the board. Here’s a link to report Mastercard vendors who do this: http://www.mastercard.com/us/personal/en/contactus/merchan

  5. PanicRoom says:

    We used to have a Centurion Amex card for business use and ran into this problem all the time. Because American Express charges the merchant an exorbitant fee per transaction, we were often charged a 3-5% surcharge just for paying with Amex. This is definitely against Amex policy, but all we needed to do was submit the paperwork to the local Amex office and they would refund the surcharge. I have no idea if this was only a policy for ‘big cards’ or if they do that for all their customers (it would be good to hear from someone on the inside here).

    In general, though, use your best judgement: single digit amounts on a credit card at a local store is really pretty pathetic. Somebody has to pay that fee for your lack of small change. If it’s Walmart, then fine, they can absorb the cost, but the idea really should be to support the smaller merchants, otherwise we will lose them.

    • ShizaMinelli says:

      @PanicRoom: If they claim to take cards, they should take cards. Why is it only large stores where it’s “acceptable” to use a card on a small purchase?

  6. bifyu says:

    I fight this battle all the time as well. My other peeve are merchants who claim you have to show ID to use the card. This is also bogus. While they may request ID, they may not require it.

    If I stick to my guns, the cashier will usually capitulate, but it’s usually pointless to try and argue the point if are stubborn. I figure it’s usually because they were poorly trained on the true requirements by their supervisors so I try to cut them a little slack. If I’m feeling principled (or an asshole, depending on your perspective) I’ll involve supervisors or insist that they discuss the matter with my credit card company. Apparently the merchant’s banks will sometimes tell the merchant that it is allowable, in contradiction to the credit card’s actual merchant agreements (if the merchants making this claim are to be believed).

    I ran into this at a local CompUSA this past christmas season, and sent in feedback to CompUSA about their error via their website contact form though, and a few days later, I got a phone call from the store’s manager who admitted the error and described the remedies they were taking. Pretty well handled after the fact I thought.

  7. speedracer says:

    It would be great to get around this. How many times have I not had cash and wanted to buy a soda and snack and couldn’t. 5$ minimum charge for atm or credit. argh!

  8. AcidReign says:

    …..I try to carry at least $100 cash all the time. Occasionally, there is a transaction that you DON’T want the credit info network repeating for the rest of your life! And if you get robbed, you’re a lot less likely to get killed if you can hand over enough cash for the perp to buy a dime bag…

  9. Orngbliss says:

    I have some info that might help to settle the air on credit card transaction fees. According to visa’s merchant laws, the merchant cannot charge its customer a transaction fee. However, depending on the state and/ or city you live in, it does not make it “illegal” to charge a transaction fee.

    For example, I went to a tow yard today to pick up a stored vehicle for my company (I work for a car lot, we do in-house financing). Upon checking out, I noticed a sign that said all credit card transaction will be charged a 5% transaction fee. I was completely enraged and upset over this. The bill was already $300 and now I have to pay an additional 5%! So, what did I do? I called the district attorney in order to file a complaint. I was astonished to learn that as long as a sign is posted, it is perfectly “legal” for a company to charge these fees. Despite the fact the Visa clearly states this to be a violation of their merchant laws.

    My only recourse in this situation is to file a complaint with Visa, but what will this do?
    What is the point of a company, like Visa, creating rules and regulations, if your own state, California, and city, San Diego, does not adhere to the rules and regulations of a company?
    I know that sounds wrong, I mean companies should not dictate laws based upon their rules and regulations, but that being said, then what’s the point of Visa trying to enforce their rules and regulations?

    The point of my ramblings are, if you are upset over a transaction fee or minimum charge fee imposed by a certain company, the best thing for you do is to check with your district attorney to see if it is legal to charge this fee. In San Diego County, as long as it is posted, it is perfectly legal for a company to charge a transaction / minimum fee.

    Oh and the best part is, when I looked up the civil code, given to me by my district attorney, it says nothing about displaying a sign!!!!

  10. Orngbliss says:

    I have some info that might help to settle the air on credit card transaction fees. According to visa’s merchant laws, the merchant cannot charge its customer a transaction fee. However, depending on the state and/ or city you live in, it does not make it “illegal” to charge a transaction fee.

    For example, I went to a tow yard today to pick up a stored vehicle for my company (I work for a car lot, we do in-house financing). Upon checking out, I noticed a sign that said all credit card transaction will be charged a 5% transaction fee. I was completely enraged and upset over this. The bill was already $300 and now I have to pay an additional 5%! So, what did I do? I called the district attorney in order to file a complaint. I was astonished to learn that as long as a sign is posted, it is perfectly “legal” for a company to charge these fees. Despite the fact the Visa clearly states this to be a violation of their merchant laws.

    My only recourse in this situation is to file a complaint with Visa, but what will this do?
    What is the point of a company, like Visa, creating rules and regulations, if your own state, California, and city, San Diego, does not adhere to the rules and regulations of a company?
    I know that sounds wrong, I mean companies should not dictate laws based upon their rules and regulations, but that being said, then what’s the point of Visa trying to enforce their rules and regulations?

    The point of my ramblings are, if you are upset over a transaction fee or minimum charge fee imposed by a certain company, the best thing for you do is to check with your district attorney to see if it is legal to charge this fee. In San Diego County, as long as its posted, it is perfectly legal for a company to charge a transaction / minimum fee.

  11. gergs says:

    The local Auntie Anne’s pretzel store at our mall has a sign that says “minimum purchase to use a credit card is $3.00″. I would love to start a discussion with the manager but I don’t think I would get anywhere. Now that I know they aren’t allowed to require a minimum sale to use the card, it pretty much infuriates me to no end. I took a picture of the sign….I should send it to Visa.

  12. kjrst9 says:

    Toady, bank of america (I know, satan) said this to me in an email:

    Please note that merchants are allowed to have a minimum or maximum
    purchase amounts when using a credit card. Be advised that this limit
    may vary between merchants.