Should I implement minimum card charges?

waiter restaurant bill credit card


I have some customers who request that we charge their credit cards for as little as $2.00 for their visit. Can we request that they have a minimum charged to the card (not inclusive of tip amount)?

– Amel Ead, Operator, IHOP, Atlanta


Many merchant agreements used to prohibit minimum thresholds for credit card charges. 2010 legislation called the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act allows businesses to set minimum credit card purchase amounts of up to $10. So by all means, it is fine for you to do so.

Some operators choose not to implement minimums. These range from fine-dining restaurateurs where low bills are rare, to QSRs where there is benefit to a swipe being faster than handling cash and the possibility of capturing a sale that would otherwise go to a competitor. While it is legal to set a minimum, it may not be consistent with company policy or franchise agreements in your operation, so double-check before changing your policy. Because you can institute a minimum may not mean you should.

There are other factors to keep in mind to make sure your policy is clear, compliant and effective:

  • The minimum needs to be applied to all credit cards equally, irrespective of differences in agreements or fees.
  • The minimum may not apply to debit cards.

To avoid confusion and frustration, if you do institute a minimum, be sure to post the policy clearly and offer guests alternatives such as a low-fee ATM. You can also use the policy as an additional opportunity for great service and sales by training employees to handle grumbling about the minimums by reminding guests they can order a dessert to-go to meet the minimum.

More on credit card minimums here

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