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Sorry, we have a minimum purchase amount

Sorry, we have a minimum purchase amount

I went shopping recently in a series of little boutiques and antique stores, and stopped for lunch at a restaurant that I’d never been to before. My lunch was pretty inexpensive ($6) but I went to pay for it using my credit card as usual. When I got to the counter and presented my card and the bill, the lady swept a stack of something off the counter and pointed to the sign that was underneath. It said that there was a $10 minimum for credit card purchases.

I said, well, sorry, I don’t have any cash with me, so I guess just make it $10. Now I know that it’s probably against the merchant agreement to require a minimum purchase on a credit card (or at least it was when I had a merchant account) but figured I would just leave a larger than normal tip for the waitress and not bother arguing. She’d done a great job anyway.

So I signed the slip for $10 and tried to shrug it off.

I wandered aimlessly through a few more shops, thinking I might find something interesting, and I did. I went to make my purchase (which totaled something like $9.35) and was again told “Sorry, we have a $10 minimum for credit card purchases.”

I said well, ok, I’ll just put it back then. The lady apologized and said that she’d let another charge go through for less than $10 recently and that her boss had gotten really mad at her.

Then it dawned on me. I could write a check.

I’d gotten so used to using my credit card (or, rarely, my debit card for everything that I’d basically stopped thinking of a check as money.

View Comments (14)
  • What would the restaurant have done if you hadn’t agreed to round your lunch up to $10?

    Something about that whole thing just doesn’t sit right with me.

  • You’re right, it is against the merchant agreement. On one hand, I feel bad for the store owners. My parents own their own business so I know that the CC transaction fees really eats into their profit. On the other hand, it’s a pain for me since I rarely carry cash. I’ve started to carry a $20 bill just for those occasions.

  • There is a corner shop with a $10 minimum near my house which makes me think twice before I use the card. I usually want to spend less than $10…

  • It is against the merchant agreement. Merchants don’t want to pay the fees on the lower amounts. I write checks at those establishments that have that sign posted.

  • You can report them to Mastercard, Visa, etc for having a minimum. At least on mastercard there is a checkbox on the report merchant form for “In order to make a MasterCard purchase, the merchant/retailer required a minimum or maximum amount”.

    I do feel bad for small business, but at the same time that is the cost of doing business. If you want to accept credit cards then you have to abide by the terms of your merchant agreement.

  • Paul, I’m pretty sure they would have run the $6 charge. After all, I’d already eaten.

    Everyone, I could report them but don’t really feel like it. Generally I just refuse to shop at all at places with a minimum charge. I don’t mind if they don’t take credit cards at all, but I do mind when they have a sign in the door saying they accept credit cards and then they pull a minimum charge thing. That feels like bait and switch and so they don’t get my business again. Or sometimes at all.

  • Aaron, I am not reporting them, and I did leave a bigger tip. A $4 one on $6, not that that’s a huge amount in and of itself. Unfortunately, I found out later that the restaurant did not apply my tip, which also makes me wonder. (And makes me feel bad for the waitress.) Ordering dessert would have been a trick, since my table was already cleared.

    As a small business owner who used to have a merchant account myself, I know that credit cards eat into profits. I couldn’t have it both ways though — accepting credit cards from people to increase my potential sales, but requiring a minimum charge to protect my profits.

    I certainly wouldn’t have the sign buried under a pile of papers near the cash register if I did want to have a minimum charge.

    I’d have it right next to the “We accept Visa, Mastercard, etc.” sign on the front door.” But of course I couldn’t do that, because it would be advertising that I was violating the terms of the contract I’d signed.

    P.S. I don’t go to Applebees, Walmart, or McDonalds for a variety of reasons.

  • (Just a note that I edited my previous comment to fix a typo and to also hopefully make it less judgmental and hypocritical.)

  • When a restaurant is only making 8% profit on a $6.00 transacation or .48 cents and the minimum credit card transaction costs them .50 to run, what can they do other than put up a minimum sign? Sure these numbers are just theoretical, but it is essentially the real life scenario. These places could refuse to take credit cards all together but a lot of people no longer carry cash. So it really becomes a catch 22 type situation for a small business lose customers by not taking cards or lose customers by setting a minimum. By boycotting these businesses you are only promoting the large businesses like Walmart and McDonalds to take over and run the little guys out of business. After all you have to ask yourself would that $6.00 meal cost you $10.00 at Applebees and you went to the mom and pop place and got it for $6.00 instead? Who would you rather have the money? Like one reader said, buy dessert or leave a bigger tip or maybe buy some random strangers meal also. The solution isn’t a boycott, perhaps asking the place of business to make the sign more visible so you can anticipate it in the future and bring cash is a better solution. Mastercard and Visa don’t care about the small guys and by reporting them you are only hurting the people that help keep money within our communities. Just my 2 cents…..

  • After re-reading my post it may have come off a bit more aggressive than I originally intended. So my apologies for that. I wasn’t taking issue with your post as much as the comments(not your own) saying u could/should report said business to the credit card companies. I also agree a sign of this nature should be in plain sight so you know what you are getting into before your purchase. I do have one question, what if instead the business tacked on a small(whatever it cost them) charge to credit card transactions under $10? Would anyone support that rather than a must spend 10 policy? Is it against the terms of Service? Once again sorry if I came off as attacking I just see this country as unfortunately catering more and more to corporate America and the companies like Mastercard and Visa not caring about the little guys.

  • Aaron, no problem. I don’t know if an extra charge is allowable or not. One solution might be to charge everyone higher prices, but then give discounts (equal to the credit card transaction fees) for cash. I’ve been to places that do that.

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