Sunday, March 11, 2007

Credit Card Charge Minimums

QUESTION: Is it legal or allowed for a store or restaurant to require you to spend at least X dollars if you want to pay by credit card?

I was at a neighborhood pub the other day and overhead a disagreement between a patron and the bartender. The patron had a single beer and wanted to pay for it with his VISA card. The bartender informed him that there's a ten dollar minimum for credit card charges. He countered that this was not legal, and expressed frustration that this requirement was not posted anywhere. The bartender held firm, and the guy left after paying ten dollars for a five dollar beer.

I see this taking place at different places I visit. Grocery stores, the neighborhood dry cleaners, bars, etc. It made me wonder: What ARE the rules for credit card charge minimums? So, I did a bit of research.

ANSWER: No. It is not allowed for VISA and Mastercard transactions. It's a violation of the agreement the merchant (store or restaurant) entered into with VISA and Mastercard. It's less clear what the rule is in the case of American Express.

Here's what I found:

VISA -- According to their website, merchants that accept VISA are "not permitted to establish minimum transaction amounts, even on sale items."

Mastercard -- According to their website, merchants may not ever require a minimum purchase amount when paying with Mastercard.

American Express -- I wasn't able to find specific information by way of a cursory Google search. I found info that suggests it's against policy in Australia.

This accountant website clearly indicates that it's against policy for merchants to require a minimum purchase amount for a VISA or Mastercard transaction. It also says that it's less clear in the case of American Express.

Penn State (for some unknown reason) issued a press release in November, 1999 that explains that merchants can't require minimum charge limits with VISA and Mastercard.

I understand why a merchant would want to require a minimum purchase amount for a credit card transaction. Credit card fees, especially for small merchants, are significant. Some merchant agreements (the agreement between the store and the bank) have per-transaction minimums that range from $1 to $6 plus. That means you can end up under water if somebody uses a credit card to pay for a twenty-five cent stick of gum. However, if you want to take credit cards, you have to agree to abide by their policies, and these are their policies.

Some merchants choose not to take credit cards, and that's absolutely their right. But lots of others choose to take credit cards, because they like the convenience. In exchange for sharing some amount of money received for every transaction, the merchant gets an easy, single point of record keeping for all or most of their transactions, and they end up not having to keep as much cash on hand. If you don't take credit cards, especially if you're a restaurant or a bar, you miss out on the opportunity to serve a large segment of the population who no longer walk around with cash in their pockets.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

CTA Bus Schedules

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) means well. They have a useful website with all possible bus schedules available, in PDF format. Unfortunately, to select a bus route from that site requires Javascript -- which a lot of phones don't support (including mine). It's no big deal that the maps themselves require Acrobat Reader to display -- most fancy PDA phones nowadays come with a PDA viewer, or one can be downloaded. But lacking that crucial Javascript support, there's no way for me to even select which bus route schedule I want to view.

Who remembers which bus schedule they need when they're sitting in front of the computer? I take so many different buses lately that I can't keep all their schedules straight. Or, I'm standing at a bus stop, wondering how long until the next bus is supposed to come through, and wishing that I could look it up on my PDA phone.

That's why I created this page, with a simple link to each bus schedule on the list. Click on a bus route name/number to download the schedule, in PDF, directly from the CTA website.

Chinatown/Pilsen Weekend Shuttle
1 Indiana/Hyde Park
2 Hyde Park Express
3 King Drive
X3 King Drive Express
4 Cottage Grove ----- OWL
X4 Cottage Grove Express
N5 South Shore Night Bus ----- OWL
6 Jackson Park Express
7 Harrison
8 Halsted
8A South Halsted
9 Ashland ----- OWL
X9 Ashland Express
10 Museum of Science & Industry
11 Lincoln/Sedgwick
12 Roosevelt
14 Jeffery Express
15 Jeffery Local
17 Westchester (PACE Route 317)
18 16th-18th
19 United Center Express
20 Madison ----- OWL
X20 Washington/Madison Express
21 Cermak
22 Clark ----- OWL
24 Wentworth
26 South Shore Express
28 Stony Island
X28 Stony Island Express
29 State
30 South Chicago
33 Magnificent Mile Express
34 South Michigan ----- OWL
35 35th
36 Broadway
38 Ogden/Taylor
39 Pershing
43 43rd
44 Wallace-Racine
47 47th
48 South Damen
49 Western ----- OWL
49A South Western (PACE Route 349)
49B North Western
X49 Western Express
50 Damen
51 51st
52 Kedzie/California
52A South Kedzie
53 Pulaski ----- OWL
53A South Pulaski
53A South Pulaski Limited
54 Cicero
X54 Cicero Express
54A North Cicero/Skokie Blvd
54B South Cicero
55 Garfield ----- OWL
X55 Garfield Express
55A 55th/Austin
55N 55th/Narragansett
56 Milwaukee
56A North Milwaukee
57 Laramie
59 59th/61st
60 Blue Island/26th ----- OWL
62 Archer ----- OWL
62H Archer/Harlem
63 63rd ----- OWL
63W West 63rd
64 Foster-Canfield
65 Grand
66 Chicago ----- OWL
67 67th-69th-71st
68 Northwest Highway
69 Cumberland/East River
70 Division
71 71st/South Shore
72 North
73 Armitage
74 Fullerton
75 74th-75th
76 Diversey
77 Belmont ----- OWL
78 Montrose
79 79th ----- OWL
80 Irving Park
X80 Irving Park Express
81 Lawrence ----- OWL
81W West Lawrence
82 Kimball-Homan
84 Peterson
85 Central
85A North Central
86 Narragansett/Ridgeland
87 87th
88 Higgins
90 Harlem
90N North Harlem
91 Austin
92 Foster
93 California/Dodge
94 South California
95E 93rd-95th
95W West 95th
96 Lunt
97 Skokie
X98 Avon Express
100 Jeffery Manor Express
103 West 103rd
106 East 103rd
108 Halsted/95th
111 Pullman/111th/115th
112 Vincennes/111th
119 Michigan/119th
120 North Western/Wacker Express
121 Union/Wacker Express
122 Illinois Center/North Western Express
123 Illinois Center/Union Express
124 Navy Pier
125 Water Tower Express
126 Jackson
127 Madison/Roosevelt Circulator
129 West Loop/South Loop
132 Goose Island Express
134 Stockton/LaSalle Express
135 Clarendon/LaSalle Express
136 Sheridan/LaSalle Express
143 Stockton/Michigan Express
144 Marine/Michigan Express
145 Wilson/Michigan Express
146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express
147 Outer Drive Express
148 Clarendon/Michigan Express
151 Sheridan ----- OWL
152 Addison
155 Devon
156 LaSalle
157 Streeterville
165 West 65th
168 UIC-Pilsen Express
169 69th-UPS Express
170 U. of Chicago-Midway
171 U. of Chicago-Hyde Park
172 U. of Chicago-Kenwood
173 U. of Chicago-Lakeview Express
174 U. of Chicago-Garfield Stations
192 University of Chicago Hospitals Express
200 Main Shuttle
201 Central/Ridge ----- OWL
205 Chicago/Golf
206 Evanston Circulator