I’ve written about this before – so here goes again. I’ve warned Insite readers it is against MasterCard and Visa policies to make you spend a certain amount on money to use your credit or debit cards. I’ve even showed you a copy of the actual policy. That rule stated if you find someone requiring a minimum purchase to use your credit or debit card, it should be reported to the credit card companies. Now, I guess I have to make that call against the city of Houston. I was in the city’s gift shop / Visitor’s Center Tuesday when I noticed a sign near the check out area. It read – Credit / Debit Card Purchases Minimum $5.00. I don’t know why the city has chosen to break the credit card rule but they have. There is a cost associated with accepting credit / debit cards but there is a benefit to accepting them – you get more business from those who don’t carry cash. I think the city should remove that sign and follow the rules. What if you can’t afford to buy $5.00 worth of stuff from the Visitor’s Center?
The Rules:

Visa says its bylaws clearly state that merchants must not establish a minimum transaction amount. That’s done, “To protect Visa cardholders so they can expect to use their cards anywhere, anyhow and anytime Visa is accepted,” says a spokesman.

“If Visa finds out about a violation, Visa will issue an enforcement letter to the acquiring bank that enables the merchant to accept the card. It’s up to the acquirer as to how to deal with the merchant.”

MasterCard is also emphatic about dealing with violations although MasterCard deals with them directly.

What you do the next time you’re told there’s a minimum to use a credit card probably depends on how you feel about the issue. If you’re sympathetic toward the merchant’s plight you’ll save the card for bigger purchases.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to rack up every cent on your credit card for more frequent flier miles, you might rustle up your best steely eyed gaze and say, “That’s not allowed.”

If you’d rather complain with less fanfare, write to Visa at askvisacorporate@visa.com. MasterCard complaints will be accepted at 1-800-300-3069.