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Debit cards and minimum purchase requirements


My niece recently reported via Facebook that a merchant in Wallingford would not allow her to complete a purchase for a soda and a pack of gum with her debit card because it did not meet the minimum transaction amount.

This started a flurry of discussion about whether this was right or wrong and the impact to both the merchant and the consumer. While I leave the judgment up to you kind reader, I thought I would share the facts from the research I did on the topic.

It is in violation of VISA/MasterCard rules to establish a minimum purchase amount. The actual language from the Operating Rules is as follows:


“A merchant must not require, or post signs indicating that it requires, a minimum or maximum transaction amount to accept a valid MasterCard card.”


A Merchant must not: Establish a minimum or maximum Transaction amount as a condition for honoring a Visa Card or Visa Electron Card

We could make an assumption that the thought process is “It doesn’t do me any good to sell something where I make .10 profit if its going to cost me .50 to process the transaction”. While I understand that thought process, it may help for the merchant to take a broader look at overall profit vs. overall costs.

If a cashier refuses your purchase, remember to be kind. They are doing what their boss has asked them to do. However, if it’s important to you, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a manager and kindly point out that their minimum purchase requirement is a violation of MasterCard / VISA operating rules. If they still refuse to take your debit card (or credit card for that matter) as payment, you can simply leave the items behind and move on to the next store.



  • Greg Patrick 5 years ago

    Just to clarify. The policy applies to signature debit card transactions not pin debit card transactions from the way I understand it.

  • SHARON 5 years ago

    That is very thoughtful of you to post my concern about this.

    Thank You

  • Gray Taylor 5 years ago

    Whoa - how can you hold the merchant responsible for a transaction fee, fixed by the cartel, that charges 17 cents plus 70 basis points? The merchant deals with the economics dealt to them by the card monopolies. No merchant will stay in business accepting cards for micro-purchases. Why don't the card networks understand this? Why doesn't you neice understand this - oh, right, its because the card brands won't let the merchant educate the consumer on this. Ah, life is good as a cartel . . . especially with so much bailout money around.

  • _Anonymous 5 years ago

    As a merchant you are basically "Renting" their services, and therefore you must abide by their policies.

    I agree with her niece,
    If you are using someone's service and their is an agreement you must follow the rules... if they don't want to..simply dont accept credit cards at your stores...

  • Stacy Litke 5 years ago

    Greg, you make a good distinction. MasterCard and VISA rules cover both PIN and Signature transactions. Their PIN networks are Cirrus, Maestro, and Plus. I also looked up the Operating Rules for the NYCE network which is the primary PIN based network in our area. The have a rule wich states "Merchants shall not establish minimum or maximum transaction amounts except as outlined in the cash back policy". Reading the cash back policy indicates the only restriction there is not to set a maximum amount less than $50. From what I can gather, this applies to PIN transactions too.