The payment networks such as Visa and MasterCard have specific rules for surcharges to comply with a settlement with the U.S. government in 2012. In addition, ten states prohibit surcharging.
Cash discounts are permitted according to U.S. law and Visa and MasterCard rules. One way of implementing a cash discount program is gaining popularity. Businesses post signs indicating that a service fee such as 3% will be added to all posted prices, but the fee will be waived for those who pay with cash or check. In other words, the fee will apply to purchases made via credit card, debit card and prepaid card – anything except cash or check.
The service fee can offset the costs of processing card payments, yielding significant cost savings for merchants. While surcharge programs are limited by rule to credit cards, cash discount programs have the advantage of offsetting the costs of debit card payments as well. Of course, they also motivate more customers to pay with cash and check. I believe this explains the recent interest in cash discount programs.