Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Minimum Visa/Mastercard charge requirements not allowed

NYC is home of the small grocery shopping trip. I don't have a car and am limited to the groceries I can carry on my own. That, combined with my own scheduling scatteredness, means I do near-daily grocery runs for whatever items I need for that night's dinner. Which means I make a number of grocery trips where I'm buying just one or two things and spending something like $6. No problem if I have cash; big pain if I haven't hit the ATM recently, since nearly every small deli/bodega I shop at has those "sorry, $10 minimum on credit card charges" signs.

Turns out minimums are a violation of Visa and MasterCard's merchant agreements. If you want to charge your 75-cent candy bar, you're technically entitled to. MSNBC covers this in a recent "Ask the Consumer Man" column. Some Googling turned up further confirmation, including an NY Better Business Bureau page on the issue.

In actual practise, I don't know that I'll challenge the policy at places I shop regularly. Kicking up a stink may or may not work, and is unlikely to endear me to the shop owners. But the pharmacy I hate, but occasionally stop in at anyway because it's close, which claims a $25 minimum on credit-card purchases? There, I may make a scene next time I'm caught short-cashed.