Sidestep Minimum Credit Card Purchase Requirements

Sidestep Minimum Credit Card Purchase Requirements

Many shops say they won’t accept credit cards unless a customer makes a minimum purchase. If it’s really important, you might want to check with the store’s manager, though, because you may be able to get around the policy. Here’s why.

Photo by szlea.

According to finance blog Credit Card Outlaw, businesses that accept Visa and Mastercard aren’t allowed to set minimum-purchase policies (these credit card companies strictly forbid it). American Express allows it, but doesn’t encourage the practice in order to keep customers happy. Since businesses incur a fee for every charge made by a customer, however, it’s not surprising they want to try and offset that expense or pass it on to the customer.

Now, you probably don’t want to run to a manager, guns blazing and demand they let you charge whatever you want or you’ll narc them out to the credit card company. (You could, but it’s probably not going to be the most successful route.) Instead, let them know you want to shop there, understand their position about credit card fees and ask if there are any other options. The manager may “waive” the policy in order to keep your business.

While it might be tempting to whip out some cash for your purchase, Credit Card Outlaw recommends you resist the urge:

If you get cash back rewards or air miles when you make everyday purchases, you should be adamant about using your card everywhere you go. Plus, using a credit card provides additional warranty protection in many cases and provides greater protection against fraud.

How often do you encounter a minimum-purchase policy when trying to use your credit card? Do you ever ask businesses to reconsider? Share your experiences in the comments.

Don’t Get Intimidated By “Credit Card Minimum Purchases” [Credit Card Outlaw]


  • Minimum purchase limits I’ve encountered are for under $10..
    Seriously, it’s LESS convenient to pay by card for such expenses! (unless you don’t have cash)
    Cash is quicker and if you don’t generally have at least $10 on you, you probably shouldn’t own a credit card!

    • I try not to use cash at all, it is much harded to keep track of where and when i spend my money if i use cash. This issue happens for standard EFTPOS transactions too. My green grocer refused to let me buy $3 of fruit on eftpos because he “would get charged $0.60” for letting me use it. i asked how much i would need to spend and he said “about $7”

      why wouldn’t he just offer to let me pay the $0.60 for him?

      when i used to run a milk bar if people wanted to do small purchases where i was making almost no proffit i would just charge them an extra small fee to make it worth while..

      then again i would have thought that keeping my business was better than refusing to let me purchase the fruit..

      • I think he now can ask you to pay a surcharge.. previously (ie before 2008 or something) credit card surcharges weren’t allowed.

        You could have offered to pay a surcharge..

  • Being able to pay by card is one of the most important things to me. For one, it helps me track my expenses more accurately without having to hold onto extra receipts that then require another step of going back through, plus it doesn’t leave me with unnecessary change as I often find myself. I can’t wait to be able to pull this out of my arsenal in the case that I need something. A lot of times, I just walk out and go elsewhere.

    • How many less than $10 purchases do you make that you need to keep track of them?
      I draw $100 cash per month at most.. I can afford not to keep track of that sort of cash and I’m not by any means on a big salary.. Currently $45k

  • I Agree that it is a VISA Merchant Rule for USA “” (Bottom of Page 9)

    But is that the Same for us here in Australia?
    Can someone find an Australian Merchant PDF?

  • Minimum payment limits don’t make sense to me, because merchant fees are a percentage – not a set fee. So if I pay for that $2 mars bar on visa, the merchant only pays 2-4cents for the privilege.

    • You will find it is mostly smaller business that have a minimum spend rule, because they have to pay a higher percentage. My bank charges me $12 per month for the facility, 3.75% of the transaction value, plus 50 cents per deposit, plus 45 cents per line on the deposit slip. So if that $2 Mars bar was the only thing I sold all month on my merchant facility, it would cost me just over $13 to bank the money! Of course, that charge consists of fixed and variable costs, depending on how many transactions I process per month, but the minimum bank charge is going to be at least 50 cents.
      Here’s the bottom line…. At that rate the bank is making more money on the transaction than I am. In the 25 years that I have accepted payment via credit cards, in the majority of transactions the bank makes more profit than me.
      Isn’t there something fundamentally wrong with that? And think about this….. we are all paying for their profit in the cost of the goods and services that we purchase.

      • If jon is right about the toll-free number the terminal dials, that is probably why they charge 50 cents per deposit.

        A toll-free number is free for you, but not for them, they pay for the call and there for pass the cost back to you. So you can probably blame a telco for that cost and the bank passing it on with or without a markup.

    • The $12 is a fixed fee so can’t be considered a cost of the transaction. If you’re really paying 95 cents per deposit, you need a better bank account.

      And back when I had a merchant account, at least, the phone number the terminal dialled was toll-free.

  • Keep in mind that a sale is a contractual agreement between you and the store. You are not *entitled* to pay for a small purchase with your card even if minimum payments are discouraged or not allowed. If the storeperson/owner wishes to have a minimum payment, then they are stating their right to refuse the transaction. As the article says, going in with guns blazing will get you nowhere. Asking politely or offering to pay a surcharge will get results.

  • It is obvious that Australian Banks are ripping off their merchants who in turn are loosing customers – especially if they are like me…if you are a retailer who will not accept my eftpos or credit card for a purchase, then you no longer have my business – plain and simple.
    New Zealand for example normally has no minimums on card use – the way it should be.
    By using card I provide the retailer the comfort of money straight in the bank…no chance for their employees to steal that money during the day.
    Simple fact is card is better for all – the sooner ignorant Aussie retailers learn this the better

  • I drive a taxi nights and this issue has come up alot in our industry. Mainly day drivers have put signs in the cabs stating the minimum charge is $10 but it has been referred to the govt dept who ever they are I don’t remember and it has been deemed illegal to charge more than is showing on the taxi meter.

    Yet I caught a cab the other day and he had a minimum $10 sign on his dash. If you report a driver for overcharging you in this way the cab company requires that they pay you back the difference.

  • I work in the payments industry and want to clear up two misconceptions mentioned above:

    1. Under Australian law (RBA ruling), merchant ARE allowed to impose a minimum purchase and/or a surcharge, as long as this is declared before the purchase is made.

    2. Merchant DO NOT pay for the cost of a phone call for each transaction, as terminals dial a 1800 number to their bank.

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