Database for credit card acceptance and surcharges

I’d love to see a database of credit card acceptance and surcharges.

I know there are changes happening in regard to surcharges, but it would still be great to be able to have a website or app to go to where we can clearly see who charges surcharges, what the surcharge is for different cards, what cards are accepted and also whether a business has a minimum charge for using cards. It could even include which business charge public holiday surcharges. A mobile app would be excellent.

In an age we’re heading towards a cashless society, and where tap and go cards / mobile pay are becoming so popular, I always find it frustrating to find my card(s) aren’t welcome. An example is a coffee shop near where I work. They have a minimum $10 spend for cards. This results in me going to a competitor to buy my daily coffee so they lose out. Another example is an independent (IGA) who wouldn’t accept my card for a $9 purchase because they had a $10 minimum. I’ve never been back there since.

So in summary, it would be great to be able to check online via a website or app to see whether we’re going to have a problem before getting to the checkout to make a purchase.

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I’ve seen business with a $30 minimum! I don’t understand why businesses don’t just build credit card processing fees into their costs. I like your idea. I wonder if one of the challenges to building something like this is that rates can vary by bank and different kinds of accounts.

Hi @cosette

You are right. Charges vary from financial institution to institution. But more importantly, the bigger the business the less they pay for the credit card facilities.

We used to have a small business where some customers paid with credit card. We decided not to impose an overall increase in costs because some did. What we did was try to recover our cost of providing the credit card facilities from those who used it.

Small businesses pay the most for being provided credit card facilities by the financial institutions, and for the provision of the equipment. I worked out when taking the cost of equipment, fees to the bank, fees for the provision of the credit card facilities etc, it was costing us more than 5% of the money we were paid on the credit cards. Also, because of the low limit imposed by the bank we had to ring and get approval for every transaction. This added another 10-15 minutes to every transaction. For a sole operator that is a lot of time to lose.

When you are a small business the costs and loss of time is significant. So we passed on that 5% cost to use the credit card. We still lost a lot of client time but didn’t feel we could charge more for that.

Large organisations, like the airlines, taxi companies etc pay next to nothing as a percentage of the credit card take, so charging say 5% surcharge is pure greed.

While the suggestion of creating a data base sounds interesting, It would be a mammoth task. Perhaps to make it feasible, it could be limited to the largest and most used businesses?

Thanks for that thoughtful response. When we, as consumers, complain about products and services, we sometimes fail to understand how the processes work for the people at the other end. It’s very helpful when business owners take part in these kinds of conversations.

As an aside, your mention of having to call for approval took me back to when I was a teenager working in a music store. We used these clunky things and also had to call for approval on a lot of credit card charges over a certain amount. Thank goodness for PayPass.

A database would be a good idea but who would administer it? How do you ensure that the data is correct? If merchants submit data to the database then you are reliant on their input, which is costly to verify. At whose cost? You would have to sell the app for money, but that might be alright too.
The merchant services providers generally charge extra for small transactions on the credit card. The threshold with Visa is usually about $15 and MasterCard $25, below which a surcharge applies. The merchant charge for Visa and MasterCard is rarely more than 1%, usually less. EFTPOS is usually a flat rate of between 3 and 50 cents per transaction. Debit Visa is in between. Amex is up to 3%. So the fees on a five dollar purchase could be trivial or up to 5 or 10% of the price, depending on the vendors agreement. If one coffee is a large percentage of your transactions, losing that much per transaction would be bad for business. The agreements between the vendors and merchant service providers are dependent on the total turnover. More turnover , lower costs, as a percentage.
A factor in the ability to use cards, is that tap and go always invokes a debit Visa or credit transaction which typically cost more than Eftpos from savings or check accounts. So where a merchant might be happy to allow Eftpos but not credit, tap and go transactions don’t work for them. Many people don’t fully understand the differences between cheque, savings,debit visa, and credit. They just use the card!


I love the idea of a database or app for excessive surcharges. Even better, the campaigns team at CHOICE has already started collecting data we could use for this.

Check out our complaints tool for card acceptance and surcharge issues.

We’re planning to use this data to let the regulator know which businesses are likely gouging consumers on surcharges when new laws take effect on 1 September. But, if we get enough meaningful information, we could build a guide for consumers. We would need to confirm the surcharge with the company and compare it to the average merchant service fee data that the RBA collects (and thankfully, that data is split by card type so it could deal with some of the points that @dicksp8 raises). We’d have to think through a few more issues but it’s a great idea we should give some time to.

Also, great point @meltam - card costs really vary business to business. Small businesses can get slugged with high fees just like consumers. Sadly, some of the biggest companies in Australia who likely pay the lowest merchant service fees (the cost of accepting a card) charge some of the highest surcharges.

The new excessive surcharging laws will still let businesses charge fees but they have to actually be based on the cost of acceptance. Small businesses will be getting information on their bills from 1 September 2017 (when the law takes effect for them) that will give a clear guide about a fair surcharge level for their business.


Erin, Head of Campaigns & Policy @ CHOICE.


Recenly, I was trying to fix up a late card repayment that didn’t process due to the provider’s own direct debit issues. I wanted to sort it out by phone to ensure the now late payment was processed. They waived the late payment fee. But, they insisted they reset the direct debit and take the late payment by dd to avoid the $2.50 card payment fee. I asked for it to be waived also. They said that was the bank’s fee and they couldn’t help it. Having worked at a bank I know what the bank fees are and this would not have been 50c, let the alone $2.50 fee they lied about. Blatant lie on their part, and a really poor customer experience.

Here’s an update from @AndyKollmorgen on excessive surcharges that you might find interesting.