Online web merchant accounts accept all major credit cards instantly. Web merchant accounts are also known as credit card merchant accounts, ecommerce merchant accounts, internet merchant accounts and online merchant accounts. Basically, each web merchant account has the ability to accept credit cards payment online 24/7 from local and international credit cards. This feature is extremely important to ensure your web site can sell your products online while you are sleeping.

Overcoming Credit Card Purchase Minimums

By Ben Dwyer

The Merchant's Standpoint:

It's an all too common headache for customers: They attempt to pay for a small purchase with a credit card, only to be informed that cards are only accepted for amounts over a certain minimum.

Merchants who impose minimums aren't purposely causing customers headaches, however, and there's an understandable reason for these purchase restrictions: the merchant can actually lose money on smaller purchases when the processing fees are larger than their profit on the sale. While a minimum purchase price is perfectly logical from a merchant's standpoint, it's specifically prohibited by three of the four major card brands.

The Credit Card Company's Standpoint:

MasterCard states clearly that merchants may not impose (or even say that they require) a minimum or maximum on purchases: "A Merchant must not require, or indicate that it requires, a minimum or maximum Transaction amount to accept a valid and properly presented Card."1

Visa's stance is similar, but with two small differences. Firstly, rather than simply forbid minimum or maximum purchases, they expressly instruct merchants to always honor valid cards, a subtle distinction but a distinction nonetheless. Furthermore, they go an extra step in explicitly stating that failing to do so is a violation of their rules: "Always honor valid cards in your acceptance category, regardless of the dollar amount of the purchase. Imposing maximum or minimum dollar amounts in order to accept a Visa card transaction is a violation of the Visa rules."2

Discover's statement is slightly more confusing: "You may not require that any Cardholder make a minimum dollar purchase in order to use a Card and you may not limit the maximum amount that a Cardholder may spend when using a Card except when the Issuer has not provided a positive Authorization Response for a Card Transaction."3

American Express doesn't specifically address the issue in their guidelines, but they have publically discouraged any practices that may discourage customers from using their cards.

So, here we're presented with the other side of the coin. When merchants place a minimum on card purchases, they're protecting their own business from losses. However, each transaction they refuse is one less purchase that benefits the credit card companies. Obviously, the credit card companies want their customers using their cards as often as possible, whether or not the merchants lose money on processing fees.

The Bottom Line:

So, it may seem that merchants are faced with two options: On one hand, they can comply with the credit card companies and lose money on small transactions. On the other, they can ignore the rules put forth by credit card originators and require a minimum amount regardless. Neither is ideal, especially as violating the rules set by credit card companies can have dire consequences. All it takes is one phone call to the credit card company from an upset customer, and merchants may lose their ability to accept credit cards or face fines reaching into the thousands of dollars.
Additionally, their bank may place the merchant on what's called a Terminated Merchant File (TMF), which will keep them from getting a competitive merchant account with in the future. Losing the ability to accept credit cards is a huge blow to business, and for e-businesses or retailers it is essentially a death sentence.

Luckily for merchants, they can avoid both losing money and violating the rules through a little resourceful pricing.

The first is to simply raise prices on everything to offset your losses. Higher prices will side-step your processing fee problem, but they may also make you less competitive. Market research is required to determine the price increases you can reasonably make.

The second option is to pass your processing fees to the customer. Charging customers extra fees for paying with a credit card is, unsurprisingly, forbidden by credit card companies. However, you can offer them a discount for paying with cash or check so long as the cash price is clearly shown as a discount from the standard price.

This will encourage customers to pay with cash across the board (for both smaller and larger purchases) while keeping your prices competitive. A menu item at a coffee shop might then look like this:

Grande Iced Mocha
Price: $5.00
Cash Discount : $0.50

Notice that there aren't two different prices. Instead, a cash discount is clearly stated and credit card transactions aren't singled out as directly costing more. The discount gives the customer an incentive to pay with cash instead of credit for small items while simultaneously protecting you from losses.


1 "MasterCard Rules", p. 125, "Minimum/Maximum Transaction Amount Prohibited"
2 "Card Acceptance and Chargeback Management Guidelines for VISA Merchants". Section: "VISA Rules", "Dollar Minimums and Maximums"
3 "Discover Operating Manual", p. 26, "Maximum/Minimum Dollar Amounts and Other Limits"

About The Author

MerchantCouncil helps business get a cheap merchant account by offering the best merchant account information.

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