Consumer Alert: Merchants can’t charge debit card users minimum purchase fees

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Minimum purchase requirements for debit or credit card transactions can be a nuisance if you’re trying to make a small purchase but don’t have cash on hand.

Officials with the Better Business Bureau say it’s important to be an informed consumers when it comes to making purchases–and that means understanding that merchants can impose minimum amount requirements on some card transactions–but not all.

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“A lot of stores don’t charge minimums but it can happen. You just have to know your rights,” said Better Business Bureau CEO kelvin Collins.

He says he knows being a consumer can sometimes be confusing.

“A lot of people do think stores can charge a minimum purchase on anything and some people think it’s illegal,” Collins told 41NBC.



Especially, when you see signs that say the opposite inside stores.

“We get consumers from time to time who will call and mention it,” he said.

The notices can be found inside businesses all over town from gas stations to nail shops. Stores charging minimum amount requirements to customers using cards for payment to make up for costs from card providers.

“In 2010, the federal government allowed companies to start passing on those fees to consumers,” he said.

But, that doesn’t apply to all fees. Collins says merchants are well within their legal rights to impose minimum charges on credit card transactions. However, if you’re using a debit card that’s not the case.

“They do allow, because of federal law, companies to have a minimum of no more than $10 on credit card purchases but they can’t pass that along for debit card purchases,” he explained.

So if you ever see a sign requiring a minimum charge for both, here’s what you should know: you do have the right to say something about it or take your money somewhere else.

“They can dispute that with the company and many times the owner or clerk in the store is not going to know,” Collins continued. “They can choose to do business there or not and many times if consumers are willing to do their business elsewhere it can change policies for businesses,” he added.

Being an informed consumer, means being in the know…and telling merchants ‘no’ when they say there’s a minimum requirement amount on debit cards.

41NBC reached out to a spokesperson with VISA who confirmed that placing minimum purchase requirements on debit card customers is a violation of a merchant’s agreement that they make with the card provider. They recommend contacting your bank and reporting it that way.

From there, VISA and your bank will investigate whether the merchant is in fact requiring a minimum transaction amount and warn the business to remove it. If they don’t comply, VISA could choose to end its terms of use agreement with the business all together.