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Undercover in Modesto: Are Visa's Secret Shoppers Watching YOUR Business?

Behind the bustling business streets of Modesto lies a story that every merchant should know. Tucked away from the obvious, undercover agents are monitoring, and we know who... See the map below. They aren't hunting for secrets of a novel but observing businesses for Visa's compliance. Welcome to the world of surcharging, where Visa's secret shoppers might be watching your every move!

The Essence of Surcharging

When a customer opts to pay with a card, businesses sometimes add an extra fee – that's a surcharge. But remember, this is not a universal fee. It's solely for card payments, setting it apart from any other charges for different payment methods.

Surcharging: A Credit-Only Affair

One of the most vital points to remember is that surcharging is exclusive to credit card transactions. Debit or prepaid cards are off the table. It doesn't matter if a debit cardholder selects the 'credit' option at the point-of-sale terminal; it's still a debit card. The differentiation lies not in the transaction method but in the card type itself.

Why Credit Cards Only?

Credit cards and debit cards, while similar in appearance, serve different functions. Credit cards allow consumers to borrow funds up to a certain limit, while debit cards withdraw directly from the cardholder's bank account. The fee structures for merchants differ between the two, with credit card transactions often being more costly. Surcharging helps businesses offset these costs, but given the different fee structures and regulations, debit and prepaid cards are excluded from surcharging.

The Guidelines: Stepping into the World of Surcharging

Before you even consider surcharging, there are steps and guidelines to heed:

  1. Alert your acquirer 30 days in advance.

  2. Surcharges are strictly for credit cards. Debit or prepaid cards? A definite no.

  3. Set your surcharge limits: the lower of your MDR or 3%. (For businesses in Colorado: cap it at 2%).

  4. Disclosure is key: from your storefront, at the point of sale, and on every receipt.

With regulations ever-evolving, keeping tabs on state-specific rules is crucial. For example, as of 15th April 2023, surcharging faces prohibition in multiple states.

The Watchful Eyes: Visa's Covert Operations

Visa is proactively ensuring that businesses toe the line. With secret shoppers patrolling nationwide, they're meticulously monitoring adherence. In our Modesto neighborhood, it's alarming to realize that nearly 100 businesses have been marked for scrutiny.

However, here's the silver lining: No customer from Evident Business Solutions is on that list. We've prioritized ensuring that our clients are compliant and well-informed, keeping them safely out of the undercover agents' radar.

Curious about who's on their watchlist? We have access to both the list and an intricate map pinpointing these businesses. If you're a Modesto business, explore the map below to see if you've been flagged. If you need clarity or harbor any concerns, don't hesitate to contact us at (209) 600-3453 or

A map showing the Modesto area with blue icons showing all of the businesses that are being targeted by Visa secret shoppers.
Modesto Area Visa Secret Shopper Map

Map updated as of 9/8/2023.

The stakes are high for those caught off-guard. Come 15th April 2023, the price of non-compliance can range from $5,000 up to a whopping $25,000.

Surcharging vs. Cash Discounts: Clear the Fog

It's easy to mix them up, but here’s a refresher: While offering cash discounts is a nod of approval, veering too close to surcharge territory can cause trouble. Ensure your prices are displayed in line with Visa's guidelines.

Your Next Steps

As the landscape changes, stay agile. Dive into Visa's official resources for a grasp of the nuances.

The guidelines to visiting the store location with pictures of examples of businesses and signage for surcharging
How To Identify A Secret Visa Shopper

With the looming presence of Visa's secret shoppers and the intricate maze of surcharging rules, businesses must be vigilant and informed. At Evident Business Solutions, we're here to guide you through, ensuring compliance and success. If you're eager to understand more or confirm your business's standing, reach out to us. We've got the expertise and the insights you need. Reach out now at (209) 600-3453 or

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