Is it ethical for businesses to charge extra to use a credit card?

With businesses finding it hard to turn a profit these days, and with every cent pinched, we’re seeing some companies charging extra simply for using a credit card. Why are they doing this, and is it ethical?


The credit card fee, sadly, is a reality and has been for some time. This is despite the fact that it costs companies less to process a credit card transaction that it does to handle and bank cash. Of course, credit card companies charge businesses a small fee, because that is how they make their money, but is it right that they pass this charge on to the customer? We’ve even noticed a difference in the fee we’ve been charged for identical transactions but using different cards, so it is becoming a bit of a big deal.

And we’re all well aware of minimum purchase levels for credit cards, often meaning we have to buy something we don’t really want to get us over that ten or twenty dollar threshold.


The problem lies in the flat rate transaction fee that credit card operators like MasterCard, Visa, and AmEx demand. It’s only a few cents, and is no big problem when filling up your car, or buying an airline ticket, it becomes a substantial problem to the retailer if people only ever use cards for tiny purchases like a coffee, or a candy bar. Then it’s eating directly in their relatively small profits, and they don’t like it, and that’s why there’s a minimum transaction fee.

But for larger purchases – should companies be allowed to add a credit card surcharge? Obviously, pure ethics says that it’s wrong, and it’s a practice we don’t like to see as it makes the most convenient way to pay less attractive, but it’s a reality. ATM machines are the very devil for this, but many people just roll their eyes and press the “Accept” button when they’re told of the extra charge for withdrawing cash on their credit card.


The problem – as with many things in the commercial world – is that once retailers start getting away with unethical practices, they become commonplace. It’s up to the customers to say no to extra charges, and if enough of us reject them, then the customer has right on their side.