Is it legal for a massage clinic to charge you an extra fee when they use HICAPS for your health insurance refund?

Recently I visited a Chinese Massage business for a massage. While the massage was very good, I was surprised that additional fees were added to the cost of my massage. First, a $5 dollar fee for using HICAPS to access a health fund rebate, and secondly, and additional $1 for using a Visa card. I was unhappy about the $5 levy in particular, as their HICAPS machine wasn’t working, and I had to complete a paper receipt myself to organise my own health fund rebate. When I suggested that this $5 fee be scrapped as the machine wasn’t working, I got only a giggle in reply. As I have never been charged a HICAPS fee by any other providers, such as Medical or Physio or Dentist, I’m wondering if its legal? Or are these extra fees simply not spelled out by other providers and just included in the fee for service? Have any other community members had this experience?


Legal, yes. Reasonable and fair, don’t know.

From the HICAPS website:

Our pricing is simple, we don’t charge you to process any Health Fund claims!

There are no installation costs or call costs with HICAPS. All you pay is a monthly rental fee for the use of the terminal, along with a Merchant Service Fee for credit card and EFTPOS transactions.

While they don’t charge per transaction through HICAPS, they charge monthly fees. $5 could be reasonable if they only process a small number of claims through HICAPS each month, then their costs per transaction could be around $5.

The other consideration is the HICAPS merchant agreement with the business in question. It may or may not allow the use if surcharges by the merchant to recover fees.


FWIW, no, I have never encountered this i.e. never been charged a fee for the use of HICAPS. It would definitely leave a bad taste in my mouth if I encountered it.

This sounds outright shonky. You were charged a fee for something that wasn’t provided?

I would be trying an alternative provider. It may be that you eventually end up back at the original provider because they really are sufficiently better than alternatives to the extent that you can put up with the additional fee(s).

That could be the key question.

If the business is of a nature where close to 100% of transactions could be claimed via private health insurance then the business might choose to reflect the monthly HICAPS cost in their pricing structure and not impose a special fee.

If the business is of a nature where most of their transactions could not be claimed via private health insurance then the business might impose a special fee on those who do use HICAPS.


It seems back in 2020/1 the monthly rental fee was in the order of $25 with transaction fees on top - I assume that means merchant fees. They added the merchant fees separately, so they should be able to recover their rental fee with around half a dozen customers a month by that reckoning.

Sounds like they either have very few customers, or they are milking it - either way, I think I’d be seeking alternative service providers.

Then, as @person said:


It would be interesting to see what they did if one paid cash and asked for a paper receipt !


Thank you to phb, person and draughtrider for your feedback. Your reasons regarding volume of claims via HICAP sound reasonable. I think , in the end, it was the fact that the HICAPS machine wasn’t working that piqued my ire. I will travel to another good masseur I like further away who doesn’t charge extra fees.


The Hicaps system allows the merchant to set a surcharge on the terminal.
The max that can be set is a flat $3 or 15% of the total.

In addition a surcharge can be set for payment type like CC.

As the transaction via Hicaps could not be done, the fee charged could not apply, therefore you have been ripped off.

I would demand the Hicaps surcharge be removed.


Thank you Gregr. My plan is to visit the offending business and let them know I won’t be returning due to the $5 fee for non working HICAPS machine.