WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Ever go to a store and have to spend a minimum amount to use your credit or debit cards. The 22News I-team found out if that's legal.
Since July 2010, retailers can require up to a $10 minimum purchase amount on credit card transactions. But the law is silent on debit cards. Visa and MasterCard both told the 22News I-Team they do not allow retailers to set a minimum on debit card purchases. But some stores do have debit card minimums. We do not know if those stores are bound by the Visa and MasterCard terms.
The 22News I-team went into several convenience stores in West Springfield, Westfield Agawam and Holyoke to see if they had a debit card minimum. Some did...
(What's your debit card minimum?)
"$8 dollars", says store employee in West Springfield.
(Do you have a debit card minimum here?)
"Unfortunately we do", says store employee in Westfield.
(Do you have a debit minimum?)
Store employee in Agawam shakes his head no.
Unlike for debit cards, it is illegal in Massachusetts for a business to charge a surcharge for using a credit card. But, they can offer a discount for using cash. That's why gas stations can charge a different fee for cash or credit.
The 22News I-team found three convenience stores in West Springfield that charge a surcharge for credit card transactions less than a pre-set minimum amount. Visa and MasterCard do not allow this for credit or debit cards and the Attorney General's office in Massachusetts told the 22News I-Team this practice is illegal for credit cards. The owner at one convenience store didn't want to talk to us, but did tell me that he's never been told to stop doing it.
The 22News I-team has been going back and forth with the spokespeople for Visa and MasterCard. The state's attorney general's office and the office of consumer affairs and business regulations to find out why these rules or regulations aren't always being enforced. After dozens of emails and phone calls the answer we're getting is that it's up to you the consumer to file a complaint and then these groups will take action.
Ted Carr a spokesperson for Visa told the 22News I-Team that if a complaint is filed, Visa will investigate potential violations. Carr says the retailers are then educated about their rules and stop the practice.
Dan Rosenfeld, the director of communications with the office of consumer affairs and business regulation told the 22News I-team the law does not have specific penalties. Chris Loh the spokesperson for the state attorney general's office told the 22News I-team a violation could also conceivably constitute a violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which could subject the offender to action by the Attorney General. Although, they do not have any recent examples of such actions.
If you see a surcharge or debit card minimum where you shop, you can report a potential violation to the attorney general's office or your credit card provider.