Credit Card Surcharges: Should Your Business Pass on the Fees?

May 6, 2024

Navigating processing fees, client perspectives, and finding the best approach for your creative small business.

As a business owner, it can be frustrating to watch a chunk of your hard-earned income vanish into the black hole of credit card processing fees. Are those swipe fees a non-negotiable cost of doing business, or are there ways to ease their impact on your bottom line? If you’re exploring credit card surcharges, let’s dive in and unpack the pros and cons of passing these fees on to your clients.

Credit Card Fees – The Necessary Evil?

Let’s be real, credit card processing fees can feel like the ultimate catch-22. We need to offer customers convenient payment options, but it comes at a cost. Those fees start to add up, especially if a significant portion of your revenue flows through credit card transactions. This situation begs the question – why are small businesses carrying the burden for services primarily benefiting the credit card companies themselves?

To Surcharge or Not to Surcharge

There’s no single right answer when it comes to the surcharge debate. It’s a decision that hinges on several factors, unique to your business:

  • State Laws: First and foremost, double-check if your state permits surcharging.
  • Industry Norms: Take cues from your industry. Is surcharging a standard practice amongst your peers?
  • Your Ideal Client: The key is to know your clients’ expectations and financial habits.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Let’s break down the potential benefits and downsides of credit card surcharges:


  • Preserve Your Profit Margin: Offset the cost of processing fees, ensuring more dollars end up in your pocket.
  • Promote Alternative Payments: Encourage clients to opt for lower-fee options like cash, check, or ACH transfers.


  • Client Perception: Some clients may dislike the additional fee, possibly influencing their purchasing decisions.
  • Transparency is Key: Confusion or a lack of clear communication can backfire, harming your client relationships.

The Smart Compromise – Price Increases

If surcharging feels like a no-go for your business model, consider strategically adjusting your prices to absorb processing fees. This approach keeps your invoices streamlined but be sure to calculate those costs accurately into your pricing for maximum profitability.

Communication: The Heart of the Matter

Whether you opt for surcharges or not, communication is critical. Clearly outline your policies within proposals, contracts, and invoices. Explain the “why” behind your chosen approach, fostering trust and understanding.

It’s YOUR Call!

Ultimately, the surcharge decision rests in your hands. Assess your clientele, business model, and what feels most aligned with your values. Remember, the right choice for one business owner may not be the ideal strategy for another. There’s no shame in doing what’s best for the sustainability and long-term success of your unique creative business.

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