Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

Annoyed at Credit Card Minimum Charges? Too Bad

Do you love going to that cute little diner for lunch but absolutely hate having to pay cash? There are drawbacks to carrying a lot of bills. Maybe you don't want to get mugged. Or, maybe you're just busy and can't make pit stops at the ATM before going out for a meal or a snack.

You might wonder if it's legal for stores to impose a credit card minimum charge before they'll swipe your plastic. You're not alone.

It seems some consumers think that it's against the law. Except, those consumers are wrong. It's perfectly legal to impose a minimum charge. Well, most of the time at least.

Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in July 2010. The legislation paved the way for new rules that affect cardholders nationwide.

It specifically allows merchants to set minimum credit card charges. But the cap can only be set at $10 or less.

Before the Dodd-Frank Act, such minimum charges typically violated service agreements with Visa and MasterCard. Meaning, merchants weren't allowed to set those limits. But the Act made it so that payment card networks like Visa can no longer have these types of regulations.

This means that most of the time, if you see a store posting a credit card minimum of $10 or less, that's perfectly legal. But if you see a store advertising a minimum purchase of $20, they are violating the law.

It certainly can be annoying. Some people genuinely dislike walking around with a wad of cash in their back pocket. But at the same time, if you want to enjoy a meal or buy something a small store, chances are they might not accept your card if you're only purchasing a few small items.

For consumers, this now means you might need to trudge around with some green in your wallet.

That is, unless you only plan on frequenting establishments that have no credit card minimum charges. But keep in mind: these rules don't apply to debit cards.

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