Can I Be Charged for Using My Credit or Debit Card in a Store?

Accepting credit cards is expensive, especially for those smaller businesses who have limited income as it is. Any business, depending on their average transaction size and volume, can expect to pay roughly 3% of that transaction in credit card fees. These fees are mostly comprised of bank fees and charges from the major card companies. Because these fees are so high, many merchants are trying to compensate by charging their customers who want to use a card. It is a rarity that one will find this, however, it does occur. Why is it so rare though? Because it’s not legal.

A co-worker of mine recently went to a small retail shop where there was a sign posted that a customer must pay $1.00 to use their credit or debit card. Visa has a law that a merchant may not charge a surcharge to use a card. Their reasoning behind this is because they don’t want any negativity associated with card usage. In fact, if the merchant looks at the agreement they signed when setting up their card processing, they will find this in the terms and conditions.

But what happens if Visa catches wind of this? Fines can range up to $250,000 but typically start out smaller. I have seen a merchant simply get a “warning” letter from Visa if Visa is feeling generous that day. The fine depends on how many complaints Visa has received from cardholders regarding this topic. Typically the first offense is only $5,000.

The problem with these fines are that they can typically put small businesses out of business. As a cardholder, you have two choices, you can either notify the merchant of the dangers associated with these fees, or you can go online and report them to Visa. Knowledge is the best way to keep small businesses, who are already suffering due to the economy, open and providing to our local communities. A good rule of thumb on card transactions for all parties involved to know is that almost 100% of the time the cardholder is the one who will come out ahead in the end.