How to Easily Test Your Surcharge Program For Compliance 2.0?

Did you design and implement a surcharge program for your business? That is fantastic! Now, as you know, it is time to test your surcharge program to make sure it is compliant.

As long as you followed my previous guides on how to se tup a surcharge program, it will not be hard to test.

Ready to get started?

Before I go too far into detail, if you are a local business who needs to test your surcharge program, please leave a comment below. Write ”Yes“ if you are and “No” if you are not. You can write more, of course, we would love to see it. I want to use these results for a future guide.

Preparation Checklist

Be prepared to check off each of the following when you test your surcharge program. Once these are checked off to your satisfaction, only you can proceed with going live.

  • Notifications and Signage
    • Card Brand Notifications
    • Clear and Conspicuous Signage 
  • Software and Technology
    • Debit Card Auto Filtering
    • Surcharge Line Itemization 
  • Messaging and Training
    • POS Signage 
    • Consistent Messaging from All Staff

Notification and Signage

Example Surcharge Sign - SurChoice

There are two types of notification that are required by the card brands. First you must notify the brands 30 days prior to your first surcharge. That part was covered when we guided you to set up your surcharge program. The second type is the notification and signage to the customer. This is not only a requirement, it is the right thing to do.

Do not surprise your customers. Surprising them can the difference between earning their support vs them feeling burned. The general rule of thumb is at least 2 notifications. One notification at the entrance of your establishment and 1 at the checkout.

Visa has a good example of signage that is posted at the entrance. You can access download the PDF version from their website. “We impose a surcharge on credit cards that is not greater than our cost of acceptance”

If you have a kiosk or in-store location, it is best practice to still post in an additional signage. This can be above the POS or right where the line starts. As for websites, it would be on the front page where you list the card brands that are accepted.

When posting signage, make sure that it is clear and conspicuous.

Visa has another example of signage posted at the point of sale (edited to be brand neutral). “We impose a surcharge of _% on the transaction amount. The surcharge is not greater than our cost of acceptance. We do not surcharge debit cards.”

If you cannot post the appropriate signage, this notice should be verbal. Example: “Hello Mr. Customer, your total today will be $__ if you pay by credit card. Would you like to save $__ today by paying with cash or debit?”

Notification & Signage Test

– Were the card brands notified 30 days prior to your first surcharge?
– Do you see at least 2 notifications?
– If you were the customer, do you feel like you were alerted before you pulled out your credit card?

Software and Technology

SurChoice Compliance Testing

As you know, one of the main issues with doing a compliant surcharge program is telling if a card is debit or not.

The customer may tell you it is a credit card. It may look like a credit card. The customer even presses the credit button. But, if that card does have debit capabilities, you may find yourself faced with fines or penalties.

Unless you and your staff are extremely diligent in checking every card for the word “debit”, you are going to need some help.

The easiest help is from some kind of software or technology. Many of the processors who offer to surcharge credit cards will also have a terminal that is capable of checking the BIN. When the card is dipped, tapped or swiped, the terminal checks to see if the card is a credit or debit card. If it is a credit card, it will add the surcharge and the surcharge line to the receipt.

Software can also have the ability of checking the card type to keep you out of trouble. I prefer software to a terminal, because if the software provider also has an API, integrations can also take place.

A good software can also allow the customer to opt for another payment method. This way to avoid a surprise complaint to the card brand that they were not notified.

Software and Technology Test

– Run 2 transactions, 1 from a debit, and 1 from a credit.
– Did your terminal or software automatically identify the card type?
– Was the transaction’s surcharge and line item automatically added or removed?

Messaging & Training


I often say that messaging and training your staff is the hardest part of a good surcharge program. Why is this the case? This is true because no one cares more about your business than you. The same goes for your customers. No one cares about your customers as much as you.

If the staff does not share the same values, they may not be able to relay the messaging that you lay it out for them.

The best way to mitigate this is to have set language, and a set response to common questions or concerns.

My recommendation is that your signage plant the seed to customers. An example: “In order to provide the lowest prices across the board, we impose a 3.5% surcharge on all credit card transactions. This surcharge is no greater than our cost of acceptance. We do not surcharge cash or debit cards.”

The statement above says that you provide the lowest prices and you want to keep it that way. You also state that the surcharge is not more than what you pay and that if they want to avoid the fee, use cash or debit.

Talk to Your Staff

The first step is to make sure that your staff (each staff member) can repeat with their eyes closed. They should understand this and it’s meaning. If not, take the time to tutor them. Do not get defensive or frustrated. The key is to help them understand how this is good for the business and good for the customer.

Next, help the staff see how a customer can benefit from this model. Each business is different. I like to take the time to explain how this model really keeps prices low and consistent for everyone. It limits inflation caused by interchange increases. It also creates motivation for the card brands to lower their costs to the merchants. There are more benefits listed here in this article.

The best results I have seen is where trainers and staff take the time to role-play. Role-playing as the customer and role-playing as the sales associate. Practicing common questions and rebuttals. It can be really fun and turned into a game.

Some common questions or concerns:

”What is this charge and why is here?“

This charge is here because our costs have been rising and we do not want to have to pass these costs onto the customer. This is one charge where we can control. Therefore if a customer pays with cash or debit, it lowers everyone’s costs and keeps prices low.

“Why add this charge now?”

Due to the economic climate, there has never been a harder time for businesses to reopen or sustain. This is one charge where we have some control to lower the costs. This is one way to do that without impacting everyone. The last thing we want to do is to have to raise the prices on everyone.

“Are you profiting from this charge?”

Absolutely not! The surcharge is not allowed to be greater than our cost of acceptance.

Messaging and Training Test

– Roleplay with your staff each morning for a few minutes.
– Can each member rebuttal a question or concern?
– Can each member explain why this fee is here and how each person can benefit from it?

Conclusion on How to Test Your Surcharge Program

There you have it. Not bad right?

As long as you follow the easy steps above, you will be able to test your surcharge program for compliance.

I am contemplating on making a testing program that can test your surcharge program for compliance. Do you think you would find value in this? If so, please say so below in a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any suggestions that should be added? If so, please reach out to me or leave it in a comment below. Thank you for helping me.

Your feedback is what keeps these guides going.

Thank you for reading and good luck with your new surcharge program.

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