Skip to main content

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Smart Bulletin No. 018

Visa’s Government and Higher Education Payment Program – Updates/Changes

This Smart Bulletin was Archived on August 1, 2023


DateVersion History Action Log - Summary of Action/Changes
February 19, 2013Implementation of Smart Bulletin #18
August 1, 2023Archived
March 22, 2024Revised for administrative updates

Effective Date

From Issuance through August 1, 2023

Business Line(s) Affected

Purchase, and Integrated


The GSA SmartPay government-wide commercial charge card services contracts offer two primary charge card brands through its contractor banks: VISA® and MasterCard®. This bulletin addresses the changes to Visa’s Government and Higher Education Payment Program (formerly called the “Tax Payment Program”) to allow merchants within certain Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) encompassing government and institutions of higher education the option of charging a service fee when payment is made using consumer credit or debit cards or when using commercial card products. Note that these fees have been permitted by MasterCard for some time; VISA is now changing its policies in a similar manner.


Note that not all merchants under the above MCCs will impose service fees. In addition, some states have laws that limit or do not allow service fees. As of February 19, 2013, the following states limit or do not allow service fees: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas. Cardholders who are charged a service fee in any of the above-mentioned states should first check the State Attorney General’s website to review the statute(s) governing service fees. If it’s determined a service fee has been improperly assessed, the cardholder should dispute the charge with the contractor bank.


Cardholders and charge card management personnel should be aware of the possibility of merchants assessing service fees on open market micro-purchases from government and higher education institutions, as identified above. Level 1 Agency/Organization Program Coordinators are asked to ensure card management, cardholders, approving officials, and cardholders throughout their organization are advised of the potential for service fees to be assessed on charge card transactions. When faced with a merchant intending to assess a service fee for a transaction, it is recommended that cardholders be advised to consider other sources of similar supplies/services, if available, which do not assess a fee. The level of such market research action taken should be commensurate with mission needs, the value and risks associated with the purchase, etc.

Furthermore, where the card is used as a payment tool under a government contract, cardholders first should consult with the cognizant contracting officer before paying any such service fees to ensure they are allowable under the contract.

An official website of the General Services Administration

Looking for U.S. government information and services?