I was recently digging around for information on the Visa website when I ran across a document containing the Visa card acceptance guidelines for merchants. It includes some pretty interesting information that I thought was worth sharing.
Visa credit card rules
What follows is a summary of Visa’s rules regarding card acceptance. I’ve mentioned some of these things in the past, but ultimately decided that it’s worth having them all in one place.
- Merchants can choose to honor all Visa cards, Visa credit and business cards only, or Visa consumer debit and prepaid cards only.
- Merchants must always honor valid Visa cards in their acceptance category regardless of the dollar amount of the purchase. Minimum and maximum purchase amounts are a violation of Visa rules.
- Merchants must always treat Visa transactions like any other transaction (with a minor exception). They may not impost a surcharge for using a Visa card, but can offer a cash discount. This discount cannot be offered for use of a “comparable card” such as a different credit card.
- Merchants who offer an alternate payment channel, such as telephone or online, are allowed to add a convenience fee as long as it is disclosed, never applied to face-to-face transaction, applied to all forms of payment through the alternative channel, etc.
- Merchants must include all applicable taxes in total transaction amount, and may not collect taxes separately in cash.
- Restaurants, cab drivers, etc. can only authorize an account for the known amount, not for the transaction amount plus estimated tip.
- Merchants may not provide cash refunds for merchandise originally purchased with a Visa card.
- Merchants must deposit their Visa transaction receipts within five calendar days.
- All electronic POS terminal are required to provide account number truncation, such that only the last four digits of the credit card number are printed on the customer’s receipt. The expiration date should not appear.
- Merchants must keep cardholder account number and personal information confidential.
- Return/exchange policies must be properly disclosed before a transaction is completed, or made available online or via mail for “card-absent” transactions.
- An unsigned credit card is invalid and should not be accepted. If an unsigned card is presented, the merchant should check the cardholder’s ID, ask the customer to sign the card, and compare the signature to the one on the ID.
- Writing “See ID” or “Ask for ID” is not a valid substitute for a signature. The customer should be asked to sign the card, as outlined above.
- Visa rules do not preclude merchants from asking for cardholder ID prior to completing a transaction, but merchants cannot make the presentation of ID a condition of acceptance.
I don’t know about you, but I’m regularly asked for ID when I make purchases, and I don’t mind. In fact, I’m one of those people carrying around an invalid card because I chose to write “Ask for Photo ID” on the back instead of signing it.
My biggest complaint is when a merchant enforces a minimum purchase requirement. While I fully understand that even small purchases are accompanied by significant processing fees, nothing frustrates me more than getting to the register and being told I can’t use a credit card unless I spend more money.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that the cashier doesn’t make the rules and is just trying to do his/her job. Thus, if you have a problem with a merchant’s policies, it’s best to take it up with a manager and/or your card issuer.