Visa and MasterCard Responds to Global Recession by Maintaining High Merchant Fees

When it comes to Visa and MasterCard’s nearly $50 billion annual hidden tax on Americans, they are in a world all unto themselves.

The economic realities of a global recession and market meltdown is universal, yet retailers are not seeing any real relief from the fees we are forced to pay the banks and those “discount” fees to Visa and MasterCard.

Heck, even OPEC and its cartel-commandeering of gas prices were forced to lower their fees – and big time!  The housing industry is in turmoil, auto manufacturers and car dealers are hemoraging and gas is less than half the cost from just a few months ago, yet interchange fees are stubbornly high.

In the past few months, oil prices have dived below a (once whopping) $70 a barrel; in the past few months crude prices have lost more than half its value.

These are huge numbers. Consumers are buying less and everyone is impacted, even OPEC. Then there is Visa, MasterCard and its member banks and their unbridled greed. They have the market power and strength to collude and fix prices – Visa and MasterCard control about 80% of the credit card business.

The world is hurting and the two giant credit card associations and its thousands of member banks are doing nothing about it, or so it seems. They are artificially keeping those rates at record levels. Why exactly do merchants in the U.S. pay nearly three times other industrialized nations’ interchange fees?

The recent victory by Discover Financial Services, literally on the courthouse steps, flaunts the card associations’ impudence and disregard.  Price fixing, unfair fees and scorn for their customers are a hallmarks for Visa and MasterCard.

Oil price declines are just another example of how powerful the banks are, and just how remorseless they are by protecting their mighty credit card fee scheme.  It seems that they do not care and instead want to milk consumers and merchants for every penny, up to the last minute.

In July, when oil prices peaked, the interchange fees were still at near record levels. Technology, efficiencies and now, the global economic crisis is having no impact on the fiefdom enjoyed by the banks.  Perhaps as the Federal government nationalized the banks, they will demand that their “partners” seize upon this opportunity to review their interchange fees?

After all, the U.S. government is also a player in the merchant interchange battle – they pay millions each year in fees when people charge with credit and debit cards for services and products sold by the government.

In an earlier posting, I quipped that a barrel of gas would more likely fall to $50 than interchange fees be lowered. {who would have known?]  Interchange fees are the cost that merchants are forced to pay to the banks, and in turn to Visa and MasterCard though a not-very “discount” fee.

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