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May 8, 2005 08:48 AM

Credit Cards at Restaurants

  • j

My wife and I just had dinner at Lisca, on Amerstdam and 92nd. The dinner was good. When I received the check, it was in an American Express embossed leather folder. I handed over my Visa card, thinking that if they didn't take Visa, I would provide my Amex. They came back and said they don't take credit cards at all. I asked if it said something on the menu -- they said it didn't, but that there was a sign outside. There wasn't anything I could find. Apart from being sleezy delivering the check in the Amex folder, not telling anyone about the cash only policy until after the meal seems underhanded and left, pardon the pun, a bad taste. What is the best way of communicating that you don't take credit cards? The couple percent that the credit card companies charge can't be a make or break for restaurants with $25 entrees (both of our's were). The only reason I can think of is to defraud the IRS. Are there any good reasons (for places like Lisca) not to take credit cards?

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  1. There is a guy who owns two restaurants and a small take out place in Richmond. One of the restaurants takes reservations and credit cards, the other does not. They have a sign on the door stating they don't accept credit cards. I'm not sure of the reasoning behind it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Janet

      I imagine that, if it is a small local restaurant, the percentage the credit card takes can dig into their profit margin. Restaurants make (if their dishes are 25 dollars and under) only about 4 percent profit. However, you should have been informed about the cash only policy. It's usually printed on the menu, or there should have been something included with the bill (in what was obviously a gratis bill folder from Amex).

      1. re: Janet

        My guess (being a regular patron of the refered establishment which takes reservations and credit cards) that the original restaurant doesn't do so because it's part of their schitck of being a pain and difficult in general (rude servers, no printed menus, etc.). Also their restaurant which takes both reservations and credit cards does a lot of business and large group type of dinners...I have no idea if that is a factor.

      2. I usually ASK if a resto takes plastic before ordering because I do not carry much cash. That being said, I believe that restos that do not take non-traditional forms of payment are either laundering money, or stuffing the mattress. I mean, even the national fast food chains will swipe my card.

        6 Replies
        1. re: GooGLeR

          But Taco Bell does charge 0.99 for using a card (at least where I live). I know of some owners that do think the fees from the card companies eat into their profits. It costs money to set up the card system too. Last time I knew the numbers, the national average for profit in a restaurant was about 3%. That being an average, there are a lot of places below that.


          1. re: ChefElias

            Credit card companies have had rules that prohibit fees and minimum purchases for using a card. I am not aware of any changes to these rules to facilitate credit card use by fast food restos. I would venture to suggest that the restaurant you went to is a franchisee who is trying to pull a fast one on the customers. You might consider disputing the charge with the credit card issuer.

            1. re: GooGLeR

              True... however, there are some ways around it. Most of the fast food restaurants that charge fees for using a card are charging them for debit transactions, where the PIN is used. Those transactions aren't dicated by the same rules as are the ones that use the MasterCard/Visa logo (which stipulates you can't pass on the fee to the consumer).

              Considering PIN-based transactions literally costs a couple of pennies, Taco Bell and the other fast food restaurants charging a fee are ripping everyone off.

              1. re: adamclyde

                The original post mentioned credit cards, NOT debit cards; that said, I have never used a debit card at any place other than an ATM, so I was not familiar with other fees that could be charged. The link below explains the fees you refer to and is another reason NOT to use a debit card for anything other than getting cash.


                1. re: GooGLeR

                  don't get confused... debit cards have dual networks - PIN-based (referred to in the biz as an online transaction) and signature-based (offline).

                  The former charges the merchants nearly nothing for every transaction. So merchants like it better. However, it doesn't make as much for the banks. The second charges merchants more, so they don't like it as much, but it makes more for the banks. Hence the lovely back and forth between retailers and banks...

                  If you use your debit card in the latter fashion (signature on receipt), you get all the perks of normal credit card transactions, since it runs over their network. Including the fact that the merchant won't (or shouldn't) charge the consumer a transaction fee, etc.

                  If your bank is charging you transaction fees for using your debit card in either fashion, drop them like a rock. I have two banks, neither of which charge any fees for any transaction - whether I use my PIN or not. Only time I get charged is at an ATM that isn't at my bank. But never, never for a purchase of any kind.

                  1. re: GooGLeR

                    The link that you provide here actually summarizes at the end that you SHOULD use debit instead of credit to keep down the overall costs of things. What people don't understand about basic economics is that when the fees fall on the merchants they inevitably fall back on the consumer the form of higher prices. And the only ones winning here are the credit card companies!!

          2. I would think that today, when people at the Swap Meet take credit cards, the veterinarian takes credit cards, and Taco Bell takes credit cards, that anywhere that doesn't had better announce loud and clear, in big letters multiple places, that they don't.

            The last place I went that didn't I was just dumbfounded.

            1. You're certainly more suspicious than I am. I figure it's a smallish, hard-working place that doesn't want to let credit-card companies skim off their cut. That said, nevertheless, they should certainly make it known upfront.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Fida

                Then it's pretty tacky of this "smallish, hardworking place" to use credit card company-provided check folders. I mean, how poor do you have to be not to be able to buy some plastic folders of your own? It's like having Coca Cola logo glasses but not serving Coke.

                1. re: Sir Gawain

                  how suspicious of you! perhaps they used to take cards but had too many problems and had to/decided to stop accepting them.

                  1. re: jenn

                    Whatever. If they charge $25 an entrée, they should take plastic.

                    But, on an unrelated subject, are you the spokesperson for undertipped waiters in the city? I seem to remember your handle from that thread... sorry to digress...

                    1. re: jenn

                      ....if they had some "problem" with Amex, why are they still using their check folders? As previously noted by the OP and others, it seems tacky and misleading to do so.

                      Based on what has been said, logic would seem to dictate that Amex had a problem with the restaurant, not vice versa.

                      1. re: peg

                        I agree. Amex provides the folders in an attempt to influence your paying habits (that's marketing, folks, not some evil brainwashing), so it seems ridiculous to use the folder and then not accept Amex. It makes the restaurant look cheap, as if they bought the folders on eBay or at a garage sale in an attempt to look 'professional'.

                2. they should tell you when you make a reservation. i have eaten at a few restaurants that don't take credit cards, but they tell you when you make the reservation. if you just stopped in without a reservation, they should tell you before they seat you to avoid embarrassment. but i don't think that they are cheating the irs, it is just that credit card companies take a percentage and it is very hard to keep track of the settlement statement. they probably just don't want to be bothered.