Will your brand be famous for credit card surcharges?

July 10, 2018

If making purchasing difficult for your customers is intrinsic to your brand, then it may make sense to impose a surcharge on credit card purchases. 

If it isn’t, don’t do it!  I’ve seen first hand too many businesses lose sales and customers through this short-sighted policy. I’m yet to meet anyone who is happy to pay a surcharge.

I was with 5 or 6 friends at a premium brand restaurant prior to Christmas. We were notified of a 3% surcharge on all credit cards when the bill was presented. It was bad form that we were only notified at the end, but it put a damper on what was a spectacular evening of food and frivolity. As none of us were carrying cash, we decided to pay by card, but withheld the generous tip of $100 (15%) we had planned to give. Some of our party vowed never to return despite having an otherwise terrific experience.

On Boxing Day, I visited one of the only cafes open near my house – a well-known Melbourne cafe brand famous for its mouth-watering pastries and excellent customer service. I ordered my coffee and something calorific and paid by card. Half way through the newspaper, I decided to order a second coffee, and was told that I had to spend another $10 to pay by card, despite having already spent over that. When I questioned it, I was told “they are the rules; no exceptions.” Let’s just say I didn’t have my second coffee and dined out on its ridiculousness to a number of my family and friends.

I get that merchant fees eat into sometimes narrow retailer margins, but with an increasingly cashless and vociferous customer, surely it would make better brand sense to include the surcharge in the cost of the item rather than giving customers a reason to bad-mouth you and possibly not return?

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Darren Taylor

MD & Head of Strategy and Research

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