Hi Lifehacker, Quite a few places I visit say they have a "minimum" credit card transaction: sometimes $5, sometimes $10. I've even been to a deli where I was told I can't purchase using a credit card unless it's over $15 — and all you can buy is a pie or pasty and a cake and drink which almost never adds up to the minimum amount. Are they allowed to enforce that at all? Thanks, One Two Fee
Photo: Paramount Pictures
The same thing recently happened to me at my local cafe. I initially attempted to purchase a $5 bacon & egg roll and was informed I needed to spend a minimum of $10. I added a soft drink but was still short by $2. In the end, I walked out with a bunch of superfluous crap that cost me a grand total of 15 bucks — $10 more than I'd initially planned on spending. Tch.
So are minimum purchase requirements legal? As we have noted in the past, businesses can specify whatever payment mechanisms they like, so long as it doesn't violate Australian consumer law. Technically, they aren't even obliged to accept cash payments and have the right to refuse service to anyone who won't play by their rules.
While there are stipulations in place to protect customers against excessive credit card surcharges, no such rule exists when it comes to minimum credit card purchases. If a merchant wanted to set a minimum purchase value of say, $100, there would be nothing to stop them (although this would obviously be bad for business.)
Things get a bit more complex when it comes to EFTPOS purchases. Certain banks disallow minimum EFTPOS transactions via merchant agreements that all retailers are supposed to abide by. For example, the Commonwealth Bank stipulates that merchants must not impose any minimum transaction amount for EFTPOS card transactions. (Of course, this doesn't necessarily guarantee that the merchant in question abides by the rules.)
If you desperately need to buy something that falls short of the minimum spending requirement, you could always try pleading your case to the manager. Let them know you understand their position about credit card fees, plead poor and politely ask if there are any other options. The manager may “waive” the policy in order to keep your business. (You can usually gauge whether they're going to be helpful within about five seconds based on their general demeanour.)
If all else fails, your only option is to make up the shortfall with extra products or take your business elsewhere.
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.