Athens Area Merchants Violating Credit Card Agreements (Updated 11/24/09)

There are a number of Athens area merchants, retailers and others who tell customers they have yo pay a surcharge to use their credit card, or pay a minimum amount to use a credit card. This is a direct violation of their merchant agreements with the credit card issuers.

Following the following excerpts from the policies of the major credit card companies is a list of Athens businesses that are in violation of their agreements and unfairly penalizing customers. Although it is "sad" they have to pay fees to take credit cards, it is a cost of doing business.

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

Minimum Purchase (MasterCard)

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?

The answer to the first question is almost never; the answer to the second question is not ever. Merchants must follow certain acceptance rules in order to be granted the privilege of accepting MasterCard cards. One of these rules specifically prohibits the practice of surcharging, that is, charging a customer a fee for using a MasterCard card over and above the sale amount. Under very specific conditions, however, a merchant can charge customers - including those using a MasterCard card - a fee in addition to the transaction amount. As a general rule, such a fee doesn't violate the MasterCard rules provided the fee is charged to all customers engaging in the same transaction, regardless of the form of payment. Keep in mind, however, that it is not a violation of the MasterCard rules for a merchant to offer customers a price discount for payment in cash, provided payment by MasterCard card is on at least as favorable terms as payment by any other means. 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. If a merchant displays a decal with the MasterCard logo to indicate that MasterCard cards are accepted, that merchant can not condition a sale based upon the cardholder disclosing any other information or identification, except under very specific conditions, such as when merchant needs to deliver merchandise to the cardholder's home or business.

It's not always easy to tell whether a merchant is complying with MasterCard acceptance rules. It's important to MasterCard that you are treated fairly and in accordance with those acceptance rules when you shop using your MasterCard card.

American Express

American Express's regulations do not explicitly prohibit minimum charges, but its policy is to discourage any merchant practices that create a "barrier to acceptance." Amex does prohibit "discrimination" against the Amex card, however, so if a merchant has no minimum charge for Visa and MasterCard, the merchant may not discriminate against Amex by imposing a minimum charge.
Athens Area Violators

Here is the list of Athens area violators. If the rescind their policy, the will be removed from the list. If you know of other violators, please add to the comments here so the list can be updated.You can find out other ways to protect yourself and see how backward Georgia is in protecting consumers in this area on this web site.

  • Hodgson's Pharmacy (5 Points)
  • Shell on Tallassee Road 
  • Cup's Coffee (East Side) (added 11//24/2009)


Anonymous said...

That list is a little short, eh?

I have mixed feelings about this. I know it's a violation of their agreement with Visa/MC/AmEx but it seems to me that this rule is not enforced with any vigor whatsoever.

Although I definitely can see both sides of this debate, I do not think that it is unreasonable for a merchant to request a minimum purchase, provided the minimum is not so high as to seem abusive. (The $10 minimum at bars is common. I've seen $5 or $10 minimums at gas stations and convenience stores and restaurants also. It's a pain in the ass, it seems unfair, and as it turns out, it's a violation of their merchant agreement. For me, the minimum purchase is usually less than I was going to spend anyway, or very close to what I was going to spend, so I don't mind. I also appreciate the convenience of being able to use the plastic, especially at the bars, and I appreciate the expense involved for the merchant, even though, of course, he is making a profit all the while anyway...)

Anyway, pardon my rambling. My real point is that the list is a little incomplete there.

Christopher Byrne said...

The list will be added to, do not worry.

bluedogdem said...

The Shell on Tallassee Road has a $3 minimum.