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Tip: Minimum Purchase Amounts Are Malarkey

Parched beyond belief, you dive into the nearest convenience store for a cold beverage. You open your wallet and find that you're out of cash. No biggie, you'll just use one of your cards — or so you think, until the clerk tells you that your $1.59 drink isn't enough to meet the store's minimum purchase amount for using debit or credit cards.

You'll often find such informative notes taped on the keypad where you swipe your card, and when you do (and your card is a MasterCard or Visa), you can mention that the store is in violation of its merchant agreement. Merchants cannot impose a minimum, or a maximum for that matter, when you're using one of these cards. You might not be able to convince the clerk of any wrongdoing, but you can take action by reporting the merchant to your credit card carrier.


Join The Conversation
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 8 years
I'm glad I know this. Thanks for posting this info.
mellie_608 mellie_608 8 years
I agree with syako. Raise your prices to cover the costs of using plastic. I know that it may not seem fair to those who pay cash, but it's a way to stay legal with the credit companies. Mom and Pop stores already charge more anyway.
syako syako 8 years
so moral is, if you accept cards and can't take the hit with the fees then raise your prices to compensate.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
really? there's this corner deli that i always used to go to by my office and they have this policy that you HAVE to spend $10 to use a credit card - and it pissed me off cause i rarely carry cash. at least now i know that they aren't allowed to do that legally - and maybe i'll report them.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
But good to know, I had no idea!
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I think I've only run into this once or maybe twice, I just said screw it and leave. Ha.
lauraconnell lauraconnell 8 years
I'm just saying that I don't think my bank account should have to take the hit (AKA buying things I don't need at gas stations and bars) so that a business doesn't have to take the hit. Call me selfish but as a recent college graduate with no job I'd rather not have to spend extra money everytime I swipe my card. It adds up!
shydcgirl28 shydcgirl28 8 years
I agree with the amycullen2 about the mom & pop stores, but the big-name stores/gas stations suck it up!
Beauty Beauty 8 years
I agree with amycullen2, too.
Liz4aker Liz4aker 8 years
It is illegal in some cities and states for a gas station to post a cash/credit price. It all depends on weights and measures. The reason being the price posted for a Cash price on a price sign is not the price that posts on a gas dispenser. One way to get around small purchase minimums in gas stations is to use that brand's CC. BP credit card at a BP, Shell credit card at a Shell station, Marathon card at a Marathon, etc.... the reason being is that the station will not be charged any credit card fees on a purchase made with the brand's CC. You earn rebates and the store isn't charged fees. It's a good practice to use when buying anything at a gas station.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
True Song.... don't quote me on this, but I think that the different Cash/Credit prices that gas stations sometime use is illegal in some states; but the gas station will get around it by saying that the gas is the same price, but you simply get a "discount" by using cash.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
hithatsmybike, some people (like me!) pay for everything with a credit card and then pay it off every month. I make about $600 per year in cash back doing it that way. Not everyone using a credit card is getting herself into debt. SavvySugar, do you know if it's permitted to charge a small fee for using a credit card? I know some gas stations charge less if you pay for gas in cash or charge 25 or 50 cents if you have a purchase for less than $5 on a card.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
If i'm really strapped I will argue, "It is against Visa policy to issue a minimum charge" and the store knows that that is true so I've never had a problem. I do try to adhere to it though.
geebers geebers 8 years
My parents have a small store and accept credit cards - they are overly honest though and do not have a minimum and often take a loss. The problem are the credit card companies charging such a high fee- they need to have a minimum set so store owners don't lose. I would report this if it was a big department store but if I buy something that is $5 or less- I use cash. I think $10 is a bit much though- that really annoys me and I would report for that.
minkyah minkyah 8 years
wow "it's your own damn fault for not packing a drink" haha anywho, our family owns a small store and we have a minimum to use cards, i definately understand that it sucks to spend more than you want/need too but let the other people are right when they say these stores take a loss, we are charged a fee per transaction to take cards (about .35 per trans, then anywhere from a 3% and up fee on the total) the credit card companies have to make money somehow, i'm sure that's part of how you and i get points and travel miles and things
teegaall teegaall 8 years
Seriously? There's this one Italian place I get my pizza slices from and two slices is about $4 but there's a $5 minimum to use a debit/credit card and I often don't have cash on me so I have to end up buying a side item which is another couple of dollars. :/
Taadie Taadie 8 years
I see this at clubs all the time and sometimes the minimums are a little ridiculous. $15 to use a credit card is kinda crazy, especially when paying for your own drinks at a cheap bar.
syako syako 8 years
care= card! ;)
syako syako 8 years
Well even if you use a DEBIT care you're spending money you already have in you bank account...
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 8 years
I think the real focus should be on making such purchases with credit.. The average North American is enough in debt without us encouraging them to advocate their right to dig their hole even deeper at every opportunity. No one should be using their credit card to buy snacks and pop at a convenience store, regardless of their situation. Really, we should be thankful such blockages in our daily spending are in place, to prevent us from ringing up countless forgettable items on plastic. If you're parched: a) it's your own damn fault for not packing a drink b) water is FREE at most fast-food restaurants, and they have as much presence as convenient stores c) suck it up and wait until you get home. You're thirsty, not dying, and you'll be fine.
Liz4aker Liz4aker 8 years
While it is against their agreement, the amount that CC companies charge per purchase is amazing. If you use your CC for a purchase under $3, the store is usually taking a loss for that sale. The station should accept your card for both their agreement and customer service, but customers should be aware and try to carry some cash on their person.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
I agree with Amycullen2, too. With Mom and Pop type businesses (non-chain stores), those credit card fees truly cut into their profit margins. That's why I always to try to pay cash or check at those businesses.
iieee_grrl iieee_grrl 8 years
The way I see it, if you can't afford for customers to make the small purchases, then don't agree to the merchant agreement and only take cash. Don't agree to a rule then try to break it.. talk about unethical!
Brooke_72 Brooke_72 8 years
I've seen this mostly (or at least noticed it) at gas stations. Large company/big name gas stations.
syako syako 8 years
Eh, I feel like if they can't afford the fees, don't accept cards at all. That way their not violating the terms.
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