Can a business charge a surcharge on a debit card?


Q. Many New Jersey stores and restaurants charge me a surcharge or convenience fee when I pay by debit card. What should I do when this happens to me?
— Consumer

A. Credit card surcharges have been a hot topic in the last year.

In fact, Gov. Phil Murphy just signed a bill that outlaws businesses from profiting from the charges, which in and of themselves are perfectly legal.

The bill also requires businesses to notify customers about the charges.

The key to your question is what happens to debit cards.

Surcharges are not legal on debit cards, but at issue is how a business processes your purchase.

Most debit cards have a Visa or Mastercard logo and can be processed as a credit card, and that’s how businesses get around this. They simply process your debit card as a credit card.

It’s an iffy practice, for sure, but if you want to use plastic, you probably don’t have a choice.

You can try to fight it by filing a complaint with Consumer Affairs, but you’re not likely to have success because if the business is processing the transaction as credit, they’re not breaking the law.

You can file a complaint online or by calling (800) 242-5846..

You asked what you should do to avoid the fee? Pay cash.

Email your questions to .

This story was originally published on Aug. 21, 2023. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.