Coffee Shops Are Obsessed With Credit Card Minimums (Plus 5 Ideas on How to Break the Habit!)

Forget that you can triple your profit by running credit cards.

Forget that accepting credit cards can alter the course of your business and add freedom to your life.

Forget all the stuff about you for a second and think of your customer.

I Close Most of My Deals with Credit Cards

A while back, I was trying to close a big deal with a startup. We were all ready to begin, but they didn’t have a system set up yet on their end yet to cut checks. The solution: They paid by credit card!

  • Did I charge an extra fee to process the credit card? Hell no!
  • Did it cost me a good chunk of change in 3% processing fees? Heck yes it did!
  • Did those 3% fees break me? Of course not! We were ready to rock. Why hit the brakes due to an administrative payment preference?

If someone wants to pay me for work I love doing, then by golly I’m gonna let ’em pay me!

In fact, accepting payment is the only step where I let customers define our WordPress Design proven process. Some pay with check, some with Paypal, but the majority pay via credit cards.

In the case of the startup mentioned above, after a month or so, once they had their checking account ready to rock, we revisited and all further payments came through ACH via Harvest.

Coffee Shops & Credit Card Minimums

Have you noticed that coffee shops are obsessed with credit card minimums?

This morning I stopped by a neighborhood coffee shop looking to purchase a cup of tea. When I tried to give them money in exchange for said tea, they said, “Minimum $3.50 on cards”. I ended up paying $4.65 for the tea I wanted + a couple of day-old muffins I’ll probably throw out. Not a great experience for me.

My hunch is that coffee shop obsession with credit card minimums is due to 2 things:

  1. It’s a low-margin business.
  2. They are scared of going out of business.

You’d be right by saying that the aforementioned coffee shop got a couple of extra bucks out of me today. But it’ll likely be a long time before I come back (it’s rare that I carry cash).

More likely, I’ll go to a different coffee shop that doesn’t add a burden to people like me who don’t carry cash.

In fact, credit card minimums are such an annoyance that the freaking U.S.A. Congress passed a law to prohibit minimums over $10!

How to Deal With Credit Card Fees

Credit cards are ubiquitous today. If you aren’t accepting them or are disincentivizing people from using them, you are in the dwindling minority of businesses (and my hat’s off to ya’, you rebel you!). You are also carrying the stink of an agitated company.

The truth is that credit card fees are a business expense like any other. Coffee shops don’t charge me extra when I ask for a spoon or receipt – but both of those consumable things cost money, too! They don’t charge me extra when I pour honey into my coffee (which might cost more than credit card fees, mind you!). It’s a pricing problem, not a credit card problem.

If you want to take a moral stand against credit cards, you’ll have my full emotional support but probably not my business (because as I mentioned, I don’t carry cash!).

5 Ideas to Help Coffee Shops Drop the “Required Minimum” Habit:

Instead of credit card minimums, encourage people to pay you more by:

  1. Offering creative upsells.
  2. Creating a space that encourages people to buy the high-margin goods. If you want people to enjoy a nice bowl of high-margin soup, make sure you have a comfy space for them to eat the soup!
  3. Push more people through the line. For example, if breakfast sandwiches are your thing, make sure you push people through the line quickly – don’t make ’em wait for fancy coffees! There have been many occasions where I’ve left a coffee shop due to a long line; there’s also been many times I’ve avoided a coffee shop due to their slow pace of service.
  4. Creating a compelling product that people are willing to pay more for.
  5. Adding a play area to encourage parents to hang out and gab longer. When my kids were little, we’d take them to Sovereign Grounds playroom all the time (and buy all sorts of high-margin goods to go with our coffees).
  6. Establishing obvious pricing tiers (i.e. make he “small” comically small, make the “medium” obviously big). Digital businesses and McDonalds have figured this out, but the knowledge has been slow to transfer to coffee shops.

Or maybe I’ve got it all wrong. If so, let me know!

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for