No, the Cash Discount program, while seemingly similar, is actually very different, particularly in the eyes of Visa and MasterCard. As mentioned in the preceding Q&A, the 2013 ruling against the card networks resulted in merchants now being able to implement a surcharge. The surcharge is allowed in all but 10 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas, plus the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico).
Those states claim that a surcharge is not fair to consumers.
Every time you see an ad on TV, in print, or hear on the radio that talks up the benefits and rewards associated with a particular credit card, those benefits come in the form of higher Interchange rates that merchants pay to be able to accept those cards.
The Surcharge carries with it several stipulations:
- Only credit cards may be surcharged – no debit cards
- Signage must be posted for at least 30 days prior to implementing a surcharge alerting your clientele
- There is a 4% maximum that can be imposed
- Surcharging is only allowed in states where the program has not been excluded
With the Cash Discount program, these limitations are not in place, as you are not implementing an additional fee for accepting a credit card, you are providing a discount for those who pay with cash. This is a clear distinction, and one that Visa, Mastercard, and the courts have agreed upon:
In a Cash Discount program, all prices in your store carry a 4% Service Charge. The posted prices are your cash price. Those who pay with cash do not have to pay this fee. This is not a situation where those who pay with a credit card pay more.
As Mitchell Katz, spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission, said in May of 2011: The Dodd-Frank law prohibits a payment card network such as Visa “from inhibiting the ability of anyone to provide a discount for payment by cash, checks, debit cards, or credit cards,” said Katz. “Neither surcharging, nor a cash discount is illegal.”