3 Facts Retailers Don't Want Credit Card Customers to Know

Written by Joe Taylor Jr.
Posted On: February 3, 2010

American Express is a CardRatings.com advertiser.

To accept credit cards at your place of business, you must agree not just to pay standard transaction fees, but to also maintain standards consistent with all other merchants in your processing network. That means covering some of the risk against fraudulent transactions, plus paying interchange fees as high as 4%. As a result, some merchants have introduced policies designed to push some transactions away from credit, or to force credit card users to cover higher overhead costs. All three of these prohibited "checkout rules" pop up from time to time:

Minimum/Maximum Credit Card Charge Amounts

It's not uncommon to see signs at small stores and cafes proclaiming a "minimum charge card purchase" of $5, $10, or even $20. Likewise, car dealers and commercial vendors sometimes cap credit card acceptance at a few thousand dollars. Consumers rarely realize that merchant agreements require retailers to accept credit cards for purchases of any size.

Credit Card Surcharges

Under credit card acceptance agreements, merchants can charge a "convenience fee" when customers pay with plastic to bypass a laborious, customary way of making a purchase. For instance, theatre box offices and county utility boards can ask for a few dollars extra in exchange for keeping you from driving downtown and standing in line for an hour. Otherwise, there's no permitted surcharge that retailers can add to your bill for paying with credit. (Some states also have no surcharge laws.)

Credit Card Identity Verification

Some retailers now request to see a driver's license or other government-issued identification when accepting credit cards. While this practice seems like a reasonable way to deter fraud, recent identity theft cases and thrown these activities into question. "Skimming crews" that gain access to a credit card's magnetic stripe data can also capture a customer's date of birth, home address, and driver's license number from a quick snap of a pinhole camera. Therefore, credit card merchant agreements prohibit retailers from requesting photo identification unless a customer has forgotten to sign the signature strip on the back of a card.

Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover all handle complaints about merchants directly from their websites or via special customer service numbers. In practice, however, the best way to voice your displeasure with a retailer's payment practice is to vote with your wallet: find a vendor that's happy to accept your credit card.

Posted in Credit Card Help
About the author:
Joe Taylor Jr.
Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.
4 Responses to "3 Facts Retailers Don't Want Credit Card Customers to Know"
  1. Merchant Accounts - Liz February 12, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Great Post! Full of interesting resources that consumers may just not know. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply»  
  2. Michael Jones February 12, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Thanks very much for your very informative site. It's guided me making up my mind about payday loans. It perhaps interest you to know that I found an alternate site that agrees with what you post here.

      Reply»  
  3. Welfred February 09, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Having credit card is really great, it is really useful if you don't have cash in your pocket. But if you don't manage it well, it can turn into worst situation.

      Reply»  
  4. regitaldld February 09, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Hello. A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits and channels those deposits into lending activities. Banks primarily provide financial services to customers while enriching investors. Government restrictions on financial activities by banks vary over time and location. Bank are important players in financial markets and offer services such as investment funds and loans. In some countries such as Germany, banks have historically owned major stakes in industrial corporations while in other countries such as the United States banks are prohibited from owning non-financial companies. In Japan, banks are usually the nexus of a cross-share holding entity known as the keiretsu. In France, bancassurance is prevalent, as most banks offer insurance services (and now real estate services) to their clients. The level of government regulation of the banking industry varies widely, with countries such as Iceland, having relatively light regulation of the banking sector, and countries such as China having a wide variety of regulations but no systematic process that can be followed typical of a communist system.

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