Bust Merchants that Require Minimum Credit Card Purchases

Have you ever been told by a merchant, "Sorry, you have to spend at least $X in order to use a credit card?" If that angers you like it does me, there is something you can do about it. In fact, Visa and MasterCard both prohibit participating merchants from setting minimum purchase requirements as a condition for acceptance of payment.

Here are FAQs from both companies with their policy:

  • Visa's FAQ - look for the item labeled "Minimum Purchase."

Visa merchants are not permitted to establish minimum transaction amounts, even on sale items. They also are not permitted to charge you a fee when you want to use your Visa card.

Q: Can a merchant charge me a fee to use my MasterCard card? Can a merchant require a minimum purchase amount to use my MasterCard card?
A: The answer to the first question is almost never; the answer to the second question is not ever.

and...

Another MasterCard acceptance rule prohibits merchants that accept MasterCard cards from establishing any minimum amount below which the merchant won't accept payment via MasterCard card.

Fighting Back: File a Complaint

If a merchant tells you a minimum purchase is required, let them know that you are aware of Visa's & MasterCard's policy, and that you are willing to file a complaint if they insist on a minimum amount. If the merchant persists in their demand, you can file a complaint online with MasterCard or, if your card is from Visa, notify the bank that issued your Visa, and the bank will assist you in the complaint process.

MasterCard's online merchant complaint form actually includes four types of violations:

  1. "In order to make a MasterCard purchase, the merchant/retailer required a minimum or maximum amount."
  2. "The merchant/retailer is adding a charge for using your MasterCard card."
  3. "The merchant/retailer required identification."
  4. "A merchant/retailer displaying the MasterCard decal in their window refused to accept my MasterCard card."

I found the "identification requirement" violation to be puzzling. I need to research the reasoning behind that one. I've been asked for ID before, and it didn't bother me. Sometimes requiring ID can prevent unauthorized use of your card. That seems good.

My Plan of Attack

I plan to make a printed card (business card size) with a copy of Visa's & MasterCard's policy on it so I can carry a copy or two in my wallet as ammunition in the argument. I'll post it here for others to use when I'm done.

Be Firm But Nice

If you encounter a merchant who gets nasty when confronted (quite likely), try to be calm, and be willing to walk away from your purchase if they are uncooperative. I'll try to remember this advice myself too.

Feedback

Do you have any horror stories about this situation? Have you won any victories by countering the merchant's demands? Let me know what you think.

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