10 Answers To Credit Card Questions We Get Asked All The Time
Credit cards come with a lot of fine print. But the scene isn’t just complicated for cardholders; it’s complicated for the retailers that accept them, too. What needs signing, and what doesn’t? When can a store ask for ID? Are they allowed to charge different prices for cash and credit?
Six years ago, Consumerist answered your questions about these rules and others.
But since then, the law has changed, and so have the agreements the credit card companies have with the merchants who accept plastic. Here’s what you need to know now.
1. Can a merchant set a minimum purchase amount for credit card transactions?
Yes. According to both the Visa (PDF) and MasterCard (PDF) merchant agreements, a merchant may set a minimum transaction threshold for credit card purchases.
There are some conditions, though. For both MasterCard and for Visa, the minimum purchase amount…
- must not exceed $10
- must apply equally to card types from all issuers — so a Signature card or a Gold card from Capital One or from Chase all face the same minimum.
- The MasterCard agreement that also specifies a merchant may not establish a different minimum for “MasterCard and another acceptance brand,” which basically translates to “if you want to take MasterCard, your minimum transaction threshold needs to be the same for every credit card user.”
2. Can a merchant charge more (or add a fee) for using a credit card?
Yes, they can — and that’s a relatively new thing. Since a legal settlement in 2013, merchants have been able to charge their customers additional surcharges for paying with a credit card.
3. Can a merchant ask to see my ID? / I wrote ‘See ID’ on my card, so I am protected from fraud… right?
This one is a little complicated. Sometimes merchants are supposed to ask to see your ID, and sometimes they’re not. Writing the words “See ID” on the back of your card doesn’t actually help you.
4. Sometimes I have to sign for purchases and sometimes I don’t. What’s the deal?
Over the past few years, credit card companies have rolled out programs allowing for faster, no-signature-required transactions at many businesses.
5. Will I still have to sign for purchases after the big upgrade next year? What is the change next year?
American credit cards are getting an upgrade in 2015 to become more secure, less susceptible to fraud, and more like their European siblings.
6. Can a merchant put a “hold” on my card for more than I spent, or for what they think I will spend?
A “hold is when a merchant effectively tells your bank or credit card company to set aside a certain amount of money for an impending purchase. It’s most frequently seen at restaurants and hotels, where customers’ tips or add-on charges can’t be predicted in advance.
7. Can a merchant make me agree to not issue a chargeback if something’s wrong?
Nope. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you have a right to dispute transactions.
MasterCard’s merchant agreement simply says, “A Merchant must not impose, as a condition of MasterCard or Maestro Card acceptance, a requirement that the Cardholder waive a right to dispute a Transaction.
8. Everyone says I should never use my debit card, because credit cards have fraud protection and debit cards don’t. Is that true?
They both have some fraud protection. However, if someone takes your debit card on an Xbox-buying spree, that’s a few hundred dollars missing from your bank account until the situation is fixed. If someone does it with your credit card, the problem can be sorted out before you have to pay the bill.
9. Doesn’t my credit card give me extended warranties and other benefits?
Probably! Card-issuing banks offer a wide variety of quiet benefits, not really advertised, to their cardholders.
10. How do I report a merchant that’s not playing by the rules?
If a merchant does try to pull anything they’re not allowed to around credit cards, you can report them. Visa and MasterCard both have easy-to-use online forms for doing just that. American Express card holders can do it by calling the 800 number on the back of their cards.