I'm sure you have all been in a convenience store, gas station, or elsewhere and seen the small signs posted by the register: Minimum Purchase $X To Use Credit Cards. Sometimes the minimum requested is as high as $10! This may seem reprehensible, but since the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 it is (in most cases) entirely legal. Why is this common practice? What can you do to protect yourself? Why bother? The solutions are simple. Arm yourself with this knowledge and stand up for your rights.

Why is this "minimum" common?

Nearly every consumer does understand that a retailer must pay a small fee to accept a credit card as well as a small percentage of each transaction. Most people without being told will generally not use a card for exceedingly small purchases out of respect for this. Sometimes, however, it is an emergency and there are no other options. Maybe this is the way you use to keep a better handle on your spending. A reliable statement at the end of the month showing all purchases goes a long way to planning a budget.

Stores are trying to avoid eating profit on small items. Plain and simple. If they can force you to spend more than you planned for the convenience of credit than their profit margin goes up. Everyone wants to keep more money in their own pocket, but these retailers are trying to take more money out of your pocket with this minimum purchase requirement.

Visa Credit CardWhat can you do to protect yourself?

The best thing that you can do to protect yourself is to fully understand the new laws. First, it only applies to CREDIT CARD transactions. Debit card transactions face no such minimums and should be allowed for ANY purchase. Furthermore, even with a credit card there is a limit to the "minimum". A retailer cannot set this limit higher than $10. This means at most you would have to spend $10 to use a Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express.

If a retailer tries to argue or fight you can insist or just walk away. The rationale for setting these new minimums to a low level and keeping debit cards free from a minimum is simple: companies want you to be able to use your card anytime, anywhere. This is how they stay in business. If a retailer complains about fees or tries to set a minimum higher than $10, gently remind them of how much business their company benefits from accepting credit and debit cards and also tell them you plan on lodging a complaint against their store with your cardholder. It is a rare merchant that will still refuse to yield at this point. They know they can still take advantage of other uniformed consumers and will normally let you use your card. Even if they do, make an effort to report them anyway. You are generous enough in giving them your business without being told how much business to give!! Refuse and report.

Why bother?

If you don't protest and just give in to rules that are in direct violation of the Dodd-Frank Act, where does it go from here. They can keep setting higher limits or adding any terms they choose like illegal surcharges or fees to use a card. Consumers must take a stand. Consumer protection is extremely important in these times. These small minimum overcharges will add up significantly over time and you must be seeking methods to reduce your credit card debt not increase it!

True Story!

A man who routinely used a debit card to pay for snacks was tired of being told he had to spend a "minimum" amount. When the clerk would attempt to refuse to accept his card, he would shrug his shoulder and say, "I hope you can resell this" and would take a bite out of his candy and a sip from his drink. Are they going to refuse your debit card and let you leave "damaged goods"? I doubt it.


Phone Number: 1-800-VISA-911 Or refer to number on the back of your card

Visa Inc.
P.O. Box 194607
San Francisco, California 94119-4607

Phone Number: 1-800-MASTERCARD Or refer to number on the back of your card

American Express
Phone Number: 1-800-528-4800

American Express
P.O. Box 297812
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33329-7812