Both Credit And Debit Rise for Visa, Along with Acquirer Fees

April 29, 2010

San Francisco-based Visa instituted an acquirer price increase last year (Digital Transactions News, March 17, 2009). In a conference call with analysts, Visa chief financial officer Byron H. Pollitt Jr. attributed the data-processing revenue growth to VisaNet’s 14% transaction increase and “the continuing effect of previously enacted pricing actions,” according to the Seeking Alpha transcript service.

It looks like another “pricing action” is on the way. Referring to an April price increase by MasterCard Inc., an analyst asked Visa executives if “you have raised merchant assessment pricing as well?” According to Seeking Alpha, chief executive Joseph W. Saunders responded, “Well, we’ve already announced an increase in our acquirers fees similar to the one that MasterCard did and ours is effective in July.” A Visa spokesperson declined further comment. As they do with interchange, acquirers are likely to pass on such network fee increases to their merchant clients.

via Digital Transactions: Both Credit And Debit Rise for Visa, Along with Acquirer Fees

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Visa IPO Derailed, Suggests Mitch Goldstone

March 17, 2008

[March 18, 2008, update:  Visa prices IPO at $44 a share, above expected range, raising a record $18 billion]

With thirty-minutes until the U.S. financial markets open, Mitch Goldstone, co-editor of WayTooHigh.com – The Credit Card Interchange Report is making the call that this week’s planned multi-billion dollar exit parachute for  thousands of banks which own the giant credit card association will fizzle.  The Visa IPO was planned as the nation’s most ambitious public offering, yet Visa Inc. is also facing the largest antitrust litigation too, one which in their own words could cause the credit card processing firm to become insolvent if we are successful.

This should now come as no surprise, especially after former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan described the financial mess as being the worst since WWII: “Greenspan Worns of Worst Crisis Since 1945.”

Obviously, the banks think differently, especially JP Morgan Chase, which is much more than a lead underwriter.  Did you know that they are also a primary investor in Visa Inc and own one of the largest Visa and MasterCard electronic payment processors, Chase Paymentech?

“I had more than a feeling that the IPO was dead on arrival several weeks ago and have been calling attention to the reasons ever since,” said Goldstone, who is lead plaintiff in the merchant interchange class-action against Visa, MasterCard and major banks.  On March 1st, WayTooHigh.com, which has been chronicling the interchange battle with daily news and commentary updates since early 2005, had this posting:  Why the Visa Inc. IPO Might be Delayed for Shelved?   Several other similar commentaries were subsequently published by WayTooHigh.com. 

“Although there have been no other public reports which we read suggesting Visa Inc. might delay or cancel its IPO, we are not surprised.  After all, the banks were equally in the dark when it came to not protecting themselves and shareholders by acting to thwart the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and other costly missteps,” said Goldstone.

Want to know more about lead plaintiff ScanMyPhotos.com?  Click here and read their daily blog: Tales from the World of Photo Scanning



Fed Cuts Interest Rates .75%; Why Don’t Banks Cut Interchange Fees Too?

January 22, 2008

Due to the global financial crisis of confidence, if the Federal Reserve can implement such fast-action by slashing key interest rates by .75%, why aren’t MasterCard and Visa’s member banks also at the same table, helping to soften the economic chasm? 

Interchange fees - a relic pricing schemed from decades ago - account for nearly $40 billion in hidden charges each year.  It is based on an antiquated system designed decades ago to cover a four-party payment system.  If the Federal Reserve has no fees to clear checks, why are Visa and MasterCard’s network able to charge so much? 

Today, the entire electronic payment network is seamless, automated and highly advanced.  Think of the Internet network as a model for efficiency.  There are few manual credit card imprinters today, instead, it is mostly automated and efficient, yet the fees are anything but modern.  With today’s emergency market conditions, if the electronic payment system were to be altered, think of the immediate cash infusion that consumers and merchants would have, rather than the banks, which as we know are facing management quagmire, as they continue to report billions in write-offs and steep revenue declines. 




Antitrust: Commission prohibits MasterCard’s intra-EEA Multilateral Interchange Fees

December 19, 2007

Antitrust: Commission prohibits MasterCard’s intra-EEA Multilateral Interchange Fees

The European Commission has decided that MasterCard’s multilateral interchange fees (MIF) for cross-border payment card transactions with MasterCard and Maestro branded debit and consumer credit cards in the European Economic Area (EEA) violate EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices (Article 81). The Commission concluded that MasterCard’s MIF, a charge levied on each payment at a retail outlet when the payment is processed, inflated the cost of card acceptance by retailers without leading to proven efficiencies. MasterCard has six months to comply with the Commission’s order to withdraw the fees. If MasterCard fails to comply, the Commission may impose daily penalty payments of 3.5% of its daily global turnover in the preceding business year. MIF are not illegal as such. However, a MIF in an open payment card scheme such as MasterCard’s is only compatible with EU competition rules if it contributes to technical and economic progress and benefits consumers. In the EU, over 23 billion payments, exceeding a value of €1350 billion, are made every year with payment cards.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “Multilateral interchange fee agreements such as MasterCard’s inflate the cost of card acceptance by retailers. Consumers foot the bill, as they risk paying twice for payment cards: once through annual fees to their bank and a second time through inflated retail prices paid not only by card users but also by customers paying cash. The Commission will accept these fees only where they are clearly fostering innovation to the benefit of all users.” The MIFMasterCard’s business model includes a mechanism that determines a minimum price merchants must pay for accepting the organisation’s payment cards. This mechanism is based on a complex network of multilaterally agreed inter-bank fees which industry refers to as “interchange fees”. At stake in today’s decision are MasterCard’s intra-EEA fallback interchange fees (“MasterCard’s MIF”). MasterCard’s MIF is a charge on each payment at a merchant outlet. This charge ranges between 0.4% of the transaction value increased by €0.05 and 1.05% increased by €0.05 for payments with Maestro debit cards, and between 0.80% and 1.20% for transactions with MasterCard consumer credit cards. The fee is retained by the customer’s bank (the “issuing bank”) and charged to the merchant’s bank (the “acquiring bank”), which then takes this cost element on board in setting its prices to merchants. MasterCard’s MIF applies to virtually all cross-border card payments in the EEA and to domestic card payments in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Luxemburg, Malta and Greece. Approximately 45% of all payment cards in the EEA either bear a MasterCard or a Maestro logo and MasterCard cards are accepted at some 85% of businesses accepting debit cards in the EEA.The Commission prohibited MasterCard’s MIF because it inflates the base on which acquiring banks charge prices to merchants for accepting payment cards, as the MIF accounts for a large part of the final price businesses pay for accepting MasterCard’s payment cards. This restriction of price competition harms businesses and their customers.MasterCard presented its MIF as an instrument to “maximise system output”. However, during four years of investigation MasterCard failed to submit the required empirical evidence to demonstrate any positive effects on innovation and efficiency which would allow passing on a fair share of the MIF benefits to consumers. The Commission therefore concluded that MasterCard’s MIF does not lead to objective efficiencies that could balance the negative effects on price competition between its member banks.The investigationThe Commission’s investigation was initially based on a series of notifications that MasterCard’s legal predecessor, Europay International S.A., submitted between May 1992 and July 1995, as well as on a complaint by EuroCommerce of May 1997. After two Statements of Objections (see MEMO/06/260) and an oral Hearing in November 2006, the Commission further verified MasterCard’s arguments through additional fact-finding.Past case practiceIn 2002, the Commission exempted a similar system proposed by Visa (see IP/02/1138) after Visa offered substantial reforms to its MIF. In particular, Visa offered to reduce progressively the level of its fees from an average of 1.1% to 0.7% until the end of 2007 and to cap fees at the level of costs for specific services. Visa also enhanced the transparency of fees and allowed banks to reveal information about the MIF to businesses. The exemption, however, expires on 31 December 2007 and Visa will from that moment on be responsible to ensure that its system is in full compliance with EU competition rules.SEPA The MasterCard MIF decision follows the Commission’s sector inquiry into retail banking in 2005 and 2006 (see IP/07/114 and MEMO/07/40), which found that interchange fee agreements might stand in the way of a more cost-efficient payment cards industry and of the creation of a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The inquiry found that in five EEA countries (Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Luxembourg) the payment card system functions without any MIF. The MasterCard decision will support the creation of a SEPA by fostering greater competition in the cards market and preventing an artificial increase of merchant fees due to an illegal pricing mechanism such as MasterCard’s MIF. 




lead Plantiff, Mitch Goldstone to Address CES

November 26, 2007

The co-founder of 30 Minute Photos Etc and ScanMyPhotos.com will be announcing in December that he was invited to again address CES: the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. This is the world’s largest consumer trade show and is the second year that Mitch Goldstone has been invited to present.  As a well-known photo imaging industry speaker, he regularly explains how technology has changed the entire photo imaging industry and created entirely new revenue centers, such as the super-fast nationwide photo scanning service which his company has become famous for.  He expects to again use the example of how credit cards were once cost-based; requiring extensive paper work, thick carbon copy receipts and manual imprinter machines.  Today, just as with his photo imaging and scanning business, everything is lightening fast and much more cost effective.  What he once charged $5.00 for is now low as 2.5 cents.  Conversely, the member banks are accused [by us] of continuing to conspire to illegally fix billion of dollars in fees; fellow retailers are forced to accept whatever charges are demanded.  As a retailer and ecommerce business, 30 Minute Photos Etc. and ScanMyPhotos.com are beholden to Visa and MasterCard and their 80% market power.  Most ecommerce businesses are forced to accept those two leading payment cards to stay in business.

More details on CES in December.

 [Source: WayTooHigh.com]


Why Credit Card’s Can Be Scrooges During The Holidays

November 24, 2007

Actually, the charge card associations and their member banks can be scrooges year-round.

During the holiday season it can be particular oppressive to non-profit charitable organizations which accept electronic payment donations. They can pay upwards of 5% in interchange fees when benevolent donors present their cards.

Don’t use credit cards to support non-profits. And, even when you do, many are then in violation of their payment agreement, as often times they require a minimum donation. Regular retail businesses would be quickly disenfranchised from their MasterCard and Visa association if they required a minimum. But, we can’t imagine the two networks sending a cancellation notice to, for instance, The American Red Cross – even though they post on their website that there is a $5.00 minimum donation.

Most charities accept donations by credit card in order to facilitate giving by donors. However, keep in mind that charities usually have to pay the resulting merchant interchange fees, which can be as high as 5%. Of course, using a credit card to give is better than not giving at all, but better still is a gift by cash or check.


Fact: Visa®, MasterCard® and Its Member Banks Are Profiteering From Califorina’s Wildfires (WayTooHigh.com)

October 26, 2007

Interchange fees did not make sense before, and it certainly does not now. As people across the country are reaching into their wallets, grabbing their plastic to make donations to the American Red Cross and other non-profit charities to help people affected by the California wildfires, guess who is reaping windfall profits?

That’s right.

Unless the card associations are planning to rescind the merchant interchange fees for non-profits, they and its thousands of financial institution member banks are poised to reap mega bucks from this unfair and hidden tax. In one hand, some banks are issuing press releases proclaiming their donations to this cause, but in the other, larger hand, are the tainted currency being siphoned back from the interchange fees imposed on well-intended peoples’ benevolence.

Way to go, Visa® and MasterCard®

The credit and debit card acquiring industry are now acquiring vital funds that are needed to go to the recovery effort, not into the bank vaults to help remedy their own mismanagement from their exposure to the sub prime housing loan crisis. We wonder if those donating money are aware of these fees?

Excerpt from About.com [Credit Card Processing for Nonprofits]:

  • Unfortunately for nonprofits, most of their transactions are not done face-to-face and fall into this category called “card not present” or “mail order telephone order (MOTO)” transactions. MOTO processing rates can also vary substantially based on the type of card and your organization’s processing volume – but it will typically be to 1% higher than a physically swiped transaction. (Personally, I can’t imagine someone who has stolen a credit card going online to make a fraudulent donation to their favorite nonprofit, but credit card companies don’t see it that way.)

Read the following FAQ from the American Red Cross Website:

  • Why do you require a donation amount of $5? Like any other online credit card processing system we are charged by credit card companies. We don’t want donors’ well-intended gift to be offset by processing fees.”

Interchange fees are seemingly forcing non-profits to violate their processing agreements. Like our retail and ecommerce business and millions of others, we are all precluded from requiring a minimum charge for an electronic transaction. Yes, in the American Red Cross’ own words, they require a minimum transaction of $5.00. Does this mean that Visa and MasterCard will withdraw electronic payment support and pull the plug on their network because of this violation? We think not, but it is one more lapse and glaring reason why we question interchange fees. Listed among the 270 page MasterCard Merchant Rules Manual, is this warning the merchants cannot require a minimum transaction amount. [from the MasterCard website page 2-22. "9.12.3 Minimum/Maximum Transaction Amount Prohibited. A merchant must not require, or post signs indicating that it requires, a minimum or maximum transaction amount to accept a valid MasterCard card."]

Let’s not just pick on MasterCard. On the Visa site, they have a link and recommendations of various charities that you can make instant donation to, including the American Red Cross. But, there is no mention of the fast that a percent of each transaction is not going to the designated non-profit, but rather being paid in merchant interchange fees. See link. On page 9 of the 135 page Rules For Visa Merchants document, they too explain that “Imposing minimum or maximum purchase amounts in order to accept a Visa card transaction is a violation of the Visa rules.”

[Commentary: WayTooHigh.com]


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