Acceptance of cards

Payees of payment transactions (usually merchants) are not obliged to accept payment cards.

If they accept payment cards, the payees of these operations:

  • Can decide which brands and types of payment cards (prepaid, debit or credit cards) to accept;

  • Cannot limit acceptance of cards of the same type and brand of payment (examples of payment brands are Multibanco, Visa, MasterCard and American Express). For example, if the recipient accepts payments by debit card of a particular brand, they should, as a rule, accept payments with all debit cards of that brand, regardless of the institution that issued the cards;

  • Must inform customers about which cards and payment brands they accept at their points of sale.

If merchants do not accept all card categories of a payment system, they must convey this information to consumers clearly and unambiguously, displaying it in a conspicuous manner at the entrance of the establishment and at the cashier and in the case of distance selling, through the website or any other applicable electronic or mobile media, prior to the time of payment.

To ensure that the payees of payment transactions and cardholders unequivocally identify the card categories and brands chosen by cardholders, card issuers must ensure that these cards are electronically identified and that this identification is also visible on the cards themselves.


Merchant service charge

The acceptance of payment cards of the different payment brands by the payees of payment transactions (usually merchants) at the points of sale implies the payment of charges by the payees, namely service fees to the merchant.

Merchant service charges are commissions applied to payment transaction payees (usually merchants) by the respective payment service providers for each card transaction made at the points of sale (POS).

Merchant service charges typically correspond to a percentage of the transaction value, although in some cases it may be a fixed amount.

They are a means of remunerating the payment service provider with whom the payment payee concludes a contract for the use of POS, by accepting payment brands and by ensuring that the funds are received by the payee.

The POS contract shall include information on the charges borne by the payee, identifying the amount of the merchant service fees applicable to each category of cards and each payment brand.

The price list of payment service providers also discloses the applicable maximum merchant service fees, namely taking into account the types of payment cards, payment brands and transaction values.

Payment service providers may charge the payees of payment transactions, by prior agreement, different merchant service fees depending on the types of payment cards used and the payment brands chosen by the cardholders.

The choice of the payment brand by the payment card holders in points of sale (POS) that accept more than one brand associated with the card is relevant for the payees of payment transactions (usually merchants), as they can pay fees (the so-called “merchant service fees”) depending on the brands chosen by the cardholders.

Payees of payment transactions may:

  • Inform their customers about the payment brands of their choice and the respective merchant service fees and other charges;

  • Install automatic mechanisms at the POS that make it possible to select a particular payment brand in advance, changing the order in which payment brands are presented to customers. However, such arrangements shall not prevent the cardholder from choosing the payment brand for each specific payment, provided that the brands on the card are accepted by the beneficiary. The option of the payment brand to be used always depend on the cardholder.


Interchange fee

The interchange fee is a charge paid by the acquiring payment service provider (usually the merchant’s payment service provider) to the issuer of the card used for each transaction carried out. It can be paid directly by the provider or indirectly through third parties.

The merchant service fee charged to the payees of payment transactions includes the interchange fee.

The interchange fee paid by the acquiring payment service providers to the payment service providers issuing the cards, when the cards are used by consumers, are subject to the following limits:

  • For debit card-based payment transactions, the interchange fee may not exceed 0.2% of the transaction value;

  • For credit card-based operations, this rate may not exceed 0.3% of the transaction value.

These limits do not apply to business cards or to cards issued by three-party schemes.

Payment service providers shall inform the payees of card-based payment transactions (usually merchants) of each payment transaction carried out. Such information shall include:

  • A reference that identifies the payment transaction;

  • The amount of the payment transaction, in the currency in which the payee’s payment account is credited;

  • The amount of the charges for the payment transaction, detailing the amount of the merchant’s service fee and the amount of the interchange fee.

If prior and express agreement of the payees exists, payment service providers may provide this information in aggregate form (by brand, payment application, payment instrument and level of interchange fees).

The contract concluded between the payment service provider and the payee may include a clause stipulating that information on payment transactions may be provided or made available periodically, at least once a month, and in an agreed form that allows the payee to store and reproduce unchanged information.