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Not accepting debit cards

Recently encountered a bar that said they no longer allow you to open tabs with a debit card. You either pay with your debit card or cash after every drink or start a tab with a card that doesn't say debit. Or you have to personally know the bartender. Has anyone heard of this before? I asked, doesn't matter if the debit card has visa/mc logo on it.

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  1. I have never encountered what you describe.....but i would find a new place to enjoy myself if they would not run a tab for me.

    1. That's odd. Does personally knowing the bartender mean you have money in your account? Sheesh.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Hobbert

        personally knowing the bartender is one of the best ways for discerning whether or not a customer is a REGULAR.

        regulars are the lifeblood of many restaurants.

        1. re: westsidegal

          I get that completely. But how would I become a "regular" if I couldn't start a tab. I work in the business. I've never heard of this.

          1. re: Bargirl65

            are you really saying that you can't think of how to become a regular unless you run a tab with your debit card? really? you can't think of one way?

            ok, i'll bite.
            1)on your way to the bar, stop at an ATM machine and get some cash (legal tender).
            pay with the cash.
            do that enough times and you will become a regular.
            3) get a line of credit so that you can get a credit card.
            then you can run a tab.

          2. re: westsidegal

            I get that but it doesn't guarantee you have money in the bank and is definitely off putting to newcomers.

            1. re: Hobbert

              most likely they have experienced some disasters with newcomers and their debit cards.

              most likely they have not experienced debit card disasters with regulars.

              they are trying to protect themselves from the risk of the newcomers' debit cards while holding on to the valued regular customers: those who have established a track record.

        2. I'd have to ask DH (in the business of all things online transactions, credit cards etc), but doesn't the business incur a transaction fee for debit as well as credit card?
          Also, many cards are credit and debit, and you chose.
          This seems odd.

          20 Replies
          1. re: monavano

            If the business pays a transaction fee for each debit card use, this policy would make even less sense than having the debit pay the whole tab at the end of the evening.
            Maybe it's because they've had a problem with people starting tabs with debit cards that have very low limits?

            1. re: monavano

              It didn't make sense but even if the card says visa they wouldn't take it because it says debit. I'm guessing they end up with a ton of $5 card charges on busy nights that has to add up to a ton of service fees.

              1. re: Bargirl65

                DH said that typically, debit fees are less than credit card fees, with the former being a set fee, and the latter being a percentage fee.
                What a pain to have to run the card for every drink though.

                1. re: Bargirl65

                  i've been told that service fees are charged as a percentage of the the tab. if this is so, they would not incur any more in the way of service fees by closing the tabs out drink by drink.

                2. re: monavano

                  if someone has $10 in their debit account, it would not be a good thing for the bar to allow them to run up a $200 tab and not be able to discover the shortfall until AFTER the bill was incurred. . . . .

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    Yes, that's what I was thinking. Is this a college town perchance, or somewhere similar?

                    1. re: ratgirlagogo

                      Nope. And apparently the bar has been around for some time. It's actually in a pretty nice area.

                      1. re: Bargirl65

                        People in nice area bounce checks, too.
                        I'm wondering, if on a credit card, the establishment will get paid, but if there is nothing in the debit account, they won't, right?

                        1. re: wyogal

                          That's my guess. But can't they preauthorize debit cards too?

                          1. re: Bargirl65

                            Not sure. I refuse to get a debit card. (I'm afraid I'll lose track)

                          2. re: wyogal

                            debit card fees are capped
                            so they can't exceed a certain dollar amount per transaction whereas credit card fees continue to grow as the underlying transaction amount grows.
                            I'll try to find out if there is something like debit card overdraft protection so the establishment gets paid even though there's not sufficient funds in that particular account, sort of like PayPal.
                            But, that might be the root of this policy.

                            1. re: monavano

                              Huh. That's interesting I wonder if that's what it is. I've just never heard of a place doing this before. Has anyone encountered this and if so how does the restaurant fare?

                              1. re: Bargirl65

                                so it's on a case by case basis whether a debit card has overdraft.
                                typically if your bank account is setup for overdraft protection, then your debit card would be as well

                                1. re: monavano

                                  For my debit card (chase) you have to opt in for it to cover purchases in excess of ur bank balance. But, I have to do that for my credit cards, too.

                            2. re: wyogal

                              i think you're right,
                              i think that how it works.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            That was my first reaction as well. Car rentals require a cash deposit if you are paying by debit. Hotels preauthorize the cost of the stay plus some to cover incidentals (or damages). I'm not surprised a bar wants to guarantee payment.

                          2. re: monavano

                            Yes, the business pays a fee for both debit and credit cards. Debit cards can also be used as credit cards - in that case the fee is the same.

                            If the debit card is used with a PIN number entered by the customer the fee is much lower than a credit card. That tends to happen at super markets, and drug stores, not restaurants.

                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                              Thanks, Bob. Fortunately, DH was able to help me out with the brass tacks of card fee transactions, since that's what he does.
                              I've never used a debit card at a bar/resto myself.

                          3. I have never heard of this, either, but I agree with fourunder, find a place that makes it easy to pay for your drinks!

                            1. That doesn't even make sense to me. I'd find a new bar.

                              1. Just another reason for paying my entertainment expenses in cash.

                                1. Where I am in the world, being able to run a bar tab is a rarity and, until recently, was illegal. And all payments had to be in cash.

                                  1. That's interesting!! A credit card could have zero credit on it. Maybe they run the card like a car rental company does?
                                    I was recently at a NYC bar/restaurant with a few friends for burgers and a few beers at about 6 PM. The server insisted on getting and holding on to a credit card from one of us before we even ordered.
                                    The place was not crowded and the "bolt" possibility was slim.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Motosport

                                      You had to give up a credit card before you even ordered so they could hold it the entire time? Boy oh boy, that wouldn't fly with me.

                                      1. re: miss_belle

                                        I've encountered this from time to time.........

                                        1. re: miss_belle

                                          stella rosa pizza in santa monica has that policy too.
                                          (i believe they changed their name to stella barra).

                                      2. I asked my 25 YO daughter about this. She is both: of the generation that uses a debit card for everything, never cash AND works weekends at a trendy/busy bar in Fairfield County, CT.

                                        The bar stopped taking debit cards to run tabs about three months ago. When a debit card was given, the bartender would get a preauthorization for $100 and a hold would be placed on the cardholder's money (similar to using the card in a gas pump). At the end of the patron's stay, the actual transaction was processed. BUT, it can take up to four days for the banks to release the hold on the money (the gas pumps at the BP station near my home warn of this, and the sign tells patrons to go inside and prepay a set amount if they don't want their money held up). Too many 20 somethings complained to the bar owner about the money being tied up. If the patron ran a tab Friday nite and again Saturday nite, he/she might not have enough cash in the account for an approval on Sunday. Three hundred dollars might be tied up for only $50 in actual purchases.
                                        Bar owner decided it wasn't worth the hassle of explaining the banking system to 20 somethings over and over. Now, no tabs except with a credit card.

                                        BTW>they prefer debit to credit cards when settling a bill, Credit cards cost a percentage of the sale, but the debit card costs the bar a flat 35 cents per transaction. This is why banks encourage customers to use the debit card as signed transaction, often giving premiums for so many signed transactions per month>>>3% on $1000 in signed transactions sure beats $7 in fees for 20 transactions.

                                        4 Replies
                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              Thanks bagelman. I guess it makes sense but I don't think I'd go back regardless. There's plenty of other bars around me and none of them have this issue.

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                That's good info Bagelman and I'm surprised I did not know that! Thank you!

                                              2. Hi, Bargirl:

                                                Weird. Almost as weird as the airlines that won't accept cash. How do they get away with *that* when it says "...legal tender for all debts, public and private"?


                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                  Blame all the homeland security bs instituted under GW Bush. By insisting on a card the airlines can better trach a passenger's behavior and identity.

                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                    Actually, my flight attendant friend says that's a complete myth. It was a business decision, because it was up to the flight attendants to figure out the change when they took cash. And, by taking cards, they have almost a 50% increase in drinks sold, even at those crazy prices.

                                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                      Not sure if this is still the case, but a few years ago I was quite tickled when I discovered that American Airlines would only take credit cards for in-flight purchases, while their short-hop carrier American Eagle would only take cash, no cards.

                                                      1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                        This makes sense, but unless I'm missing something, it's against the law within U.S. airspace.

                                                  2. I have never encountered this and on most occasions only carry a debit card and some cash. I'll have to start hitting the bar with one of the credit cards I keep in my dresser for travel, etc...

                                                    1. Is this establishment a bar only....or does it serve food as well, as does a full service restaurant?

                                                      btw.....I use my Visa Debit Card for many purchases and always request it to be run as a Credit Transaction.....by doing so, it saves you any ATM fees, which many stores impose. e.g., ShopRite Supermarkets in NJ.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        Shop Rite in NJ has never charged us any ATM transaction fee when using our debit cards to pay for anything, including getting cashback. Are you referring to an independent ATM in the vestibule? I shop there every week.

                                                        1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                          I live in NYC - same thing. I use my debit card as both a credit card and as a debit card where I enter a PIN. I've never been charged a fee. Not even when I've gotten cash back.

                                                          1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                            I can get charged at both ShopRite and Costco.....but you can avert the fee by requesting it be rung up as a Credit Transaction, not Debit at ShopRite. Both ShopRite (Paramus) and Costco have their terminals set up as ATMs, or NYCE transactions, if not mistaken...which shows on my monthly statements. I'm not sure if Inserra or Glass Gardens owns the location.

                                                            My bank is Valley National and they were the ones who told me how to avoid the fees...but Costco has seemed to have gotten around that by not offering Credit Card Services

                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                              My GF banks at Valley and mentioned something similar. I don't know if it's a Valley thing or something permitted by New Jersey law.

                                                              On the bright side you've got lots of BYO restaurants in New Jersey. :-)

                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                With regards to BYO....there are only a few that I go to....most of the better restaurants have liquor licenses while most of the BYOs are mediocre with few exceptions in my area of Northern New Jersey. While I do enjoy a moderate amount of red, I cannot appreciate any white. Beer is an option, but I'm more of spirits guy after beer......Spirits are not an option by statute, but I've been known to sneak it in occasionally.

                                                              2. re: fourunder

                                                                This is for a purchase at the register? Is the debit charge from your bank or Shop Rite? It sounds as if your bank is charging you for a transaction at Shop Rite, not the other way around. This is highly unusual. I have used both my debit cards from Florida to Cape Cod for POS transactions, and never been charged. I use two different banks than you. This is the oddest thing I have ever heard. I use them online, in NYC taxis, for train tickets, food, furniture, pest control, farmer's market, gas on I95, etc. The only instance I would ever incur a charge is obtaining cash at an another bank's atm. Never a POS transaction.

                                                                Costco only accepts either a debit card or Amex. I have never been charged there either when using my debit.

                                                                Update: just looked at VNB schedule of fees. They do charge $1 fee PER POS transaction. I would never agree to that. How much more can the banks charge someone for access to their own money? It's getting ridiculous.

                                                          2. When I gave my card to the bartender for starting a tab but paid the bill in cash, I noticed a week later that there was still a $25 hold on my card. it was released on day 8. I wonder if that has something to do with it, putting a hold on funds on a debit card. Just guessing.

                                                            1. The difference between a credit card and a debit card is that if you don't have enough money in your bank account to cover the tab, the transaction will not go through with a debit card. They have probably been burned too many times that way.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                Hehe, you'd thing if one didn't have enough money for a bar tab, that they would not be out drinking...

                                                                1. re: alliegator

                                                                  Yeah, because drinkers ALWAYS show good judgement...

                                                              2. My daughter told me an interesting story this morning....
                                                                She works at a nice restaurant/bar. There is a couple that comes in all the time, almost daily. They are "regulars" at this place. They used to be neighbors, our daughter has known them her whole life.
                                                                Last night they came in, then when leaving, our daughter said "good bye, have a great night, thanks for coming in." They looked at her in a really weird way.
                                                                They were actually trying to sneak out without paying their tab. (she wasn't their server, they just were at the bar)
                                                                Apparently they are "regulars," and so didn't leave a credit card or something to pay for it. Because they were "regulars," they had a tab without one.
                                                                The manager followed them to the car and was able to get them to pay.
                                                                So, even "regulars" can be jerks.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: wyogal

                                                                  why do people do this? isnt that embarrassing??