Q. Can a store or business charge a surcharge or set a spending minimum amount that has to be spent in order to use your debit card?
A. You’re correct that many businesses set a minimum amount that customers must spend before using a credit or debit card.
That’s because merchants pay a fee for every card transaction, and the costs add up as more people use plastic over cash.
Imagine you buy a bottle of water for $2. It’s possible that the merchant pays a fee that means it ends up taking a loss on the sale.
Merchants are allowed to set minimums for credit cards.
According to a 2010 ruling under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, a business is allowed to set a credit card minimum of up to $10 as long as that same standard applies to all the credit cards accepted by that merchant, said Gerard Papetti, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield.
But, he said, the 2010 law only applies to credit card transactions.
“Debit card transactions are expressly prohibited from having a minimum purchase amount,” he said.
But many merchants don’t realize the difference, depending on what processing system they use for transactions.
If you feel you’ve been wrongly charged, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Email your questions to [email protected].
Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.