NACS Video: Fight Swipe Fees!

April 26, 2010

NACSTV — April 26, 2010 — NACS, the association for convenience and petroleum retailing, delivered a record-setting number of consumer signatures to Congress on April 27, telling them that hidden credit and debit card swipe fees are unacceptable and that Congress must fix a clearly broken system. Learn more at http://www.fightswipefees.com


PIN Debit News Blog: NACS Interactive Cartoon Depicts Cost of Interchange

April 20, 2010

The National Association of Convenience Stores has released an interactive cartoon designed to educate consumers about the problem of credit and debit card swipe fees with the hope of involving them in a solution. Called interchange fees by the banks that set the rates, swipe fees are a percentage of each transaction that Visa and MasterCard and their member banks collect from retailers every time a credit or debit card is used. Fees average about 2 percent in the United States.

The interactive cartoon is viewable here.

via PIN Debit News Blog: NACS Interactive Cartoon Depicts Cost of Interchange.


Retail Groups Urge Credit Card Reform in Senate Banking Bill (via NACSOnline)

March 17, 2010
Legislation unveiled by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd omits credit card interchange fee reform.
 

WASHINGTON – This week Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) unveiled a financial regulation overhaul bill that omits an important issue to convenience and petroleum retailers, consumers and small businesses in general: credit and debit card interchange (or “swipe”) fee reform.

Last year, Dodd announced his intention to draft legislation addressing the country’s outrageous interchange fees. It seemed to many that the broad financial overhaul bill would be a natural home for the swipe fee fix.

Retail groups in Washington, while disappointed that this issue was left out of the legislation, expressed a strong desire to work with Dodd and members of the Senate Banking Committee to address swipe fee reform.

“What we are seeing is merely the first draft of the legislation,” according to Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations.  “This bill is far from complete and we can expect to see more iterations and many amendments offered as it moves through the Senate process. All of this tweaking could allow for swipe fee language to be included.”

“Financial services reform isn’t complete without swipe fee reform,” said Mallory Duncan, general counsel for the National Retail Federation. “Chairman Dodd has acknowledged the impact of these fees on consumers in the past, and we hope to see them addressed in the final version of this legislation.”

Dodd’s legislation faces a tough road ahead — no Republicans are backing the bill yet, and numerous interest groups from the financial services industry are crying foul over provisions that either have been included or excluded. Dodd, however, is confident the bill will pass, although he recognizes some issues remain. “Over the last few months, Banking Committee members have worked together to try and produce a consensus package,” Dodd said. “Together we have made significant progress and resolved many of the items, but a few outstanding issues remain.”

The Hill reports that a full Senate Banking Committee markup is scheduled the week of March 22 and Senate Democrats are hoping to pass the bill before the Memorial Day recess.

Above content from NACSOnline; For more on card fees and what NACS is doing, visit the NACS Issue Page.


Small Business Advocates Commend California Investigative Hearing on Credit Card Fees (NACS)

January 27, 2010

Hearing provided a critical opportunity to address the impact of hidden swipe fees and review possible solutions.

SACRAMENTO – Monday afternoon, California Assemblyman Pedro Nava, chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee, held an investigative hearing on the impact of hidden credit card swipe fees on California consumers and small businesses. Californians paid nearly $5 billion in swipe fees in 2008.

Small-business owners and advocates know that these hidden fees — which total more than credit card annual fees, cash advance fees, over-the-limit fees, and late fees combined – are crippling Main Street businesses and hurting their customers at a time when they can least afford it.

This hearing provided a critical opportunity to address the impact of hidden swipe fees and review possible solutions. The hearing is particularly notable both because of the size and impact of the California economy in the United States and because Visa’s headquarters are located in the state.

“This hearing is important, because it shows that Assemblyman Nava is listening to his constituents and that he recognizes, at a time when the economy is already so bad, that we can’t afford to let Visa, MasterCard, and the big banks rake in billions of dollars in hidden fees on the backs of small businesses and consumers,” said Mitch Goldstone, president and CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com, an Irvine, Calif.-based retail and online business that feels the impact of ever-increasing swipe fees every day.

“It’s also important that it’s happening in California. First, because we have such a large economy on our own, and reforms that start here often get picked up across the country. And second, because Visa is headquartered in California, this represents a dramatic signal to them that lawmakers are joining small businesses and our customers in saying ‘enough is enough,’” said Goldstone in a press release.

“Reforms are needed to create a transparent process for businesses to negotiate rates and enhance public awareness of interchange fees, which continue to increase,” testified Liz Garner of the Food Marketing Institute the hearing.

“Card companies and banks collect an interchange fee averaging about 2 percent on every credit and debit card transaction, and can raise the rates at any time by any amount,” she said. “We are working for a more competitive and transparent card system that works better for consumers and merchants alike, and hearings like this one are a critical step in that process.”

Credit card interchange fees squeezed American consumers and businesses to the tune of $48 billion in 2008. These hidden fees are set in secret by the banks and credit card companies and charged to store owners every time they run a customer’s credit card.

Americans pay the highest swipe fee rates in the industrialized world. On average, two dollars of every $100 a consumer spends using a credit card goes directly to the credit card industry. That adds up to $427 a year for every American household. Since 2001, the amount Americans pay in swipe fees has tripled.

source: NACSOnline 


FightSwipeFees.com Credit Card Interchange Background

December 8, 2009

A swipe fee is a fee collected from retailers by the credit card companies and their member banks every time a credit or debit card is used to pay for a purchase. This fee is also known as “interchange.” This fee varies with type of card, size of merchant and other factors, but as much as $2 of every $100 you spend on plastic goes to card issuers. Credit and debit card interchange collected by Visa and MasterCard banks totaled about $48 billion in 2008, triple what it was in 2001. These fees raise prices for consumers. In 2008, the average American family paid about $427 in interchange fees.
Swipe fees add to the price of everything we buy, even if we choose not to use a credit or debit card. Americans paid about $48 billion in credit card swipe fees in 2008 alone, more than all other credit card fees combined.
Visa and MasterCard each separately work with their member banks to set swipe fees. The agreement between these banks, which should compete for business, is illegal price fixing and it hurts consumers and merchants.
Visa and MasterCard collected about $48 billion in swipe fees in 2008, triple what was collected in 2001. In 2008, the average American family paid about $427 in swipe fees.

Swipe fees are rising the fastest on gasoline purchases; payouts to the credit card industry have more than doubled since 2004.

Credit card companies and their member banks have increased the amount of swipe fees collected by both increasing rates and encouraging more people to pay by plastic instead of cash.

Even though advances in technology continue to bring down the cost of transaction processing, swipe fees keep going up. A recent study concluded that only 13 percent of the swipe fees that the big credit card companies collect actually goes for transaction processing. Most of the money goes toward profits for the banks, rewards programs that benefit mostly affluent cardholders and direct mail marketing campaigns that clog mailboxes with nine billion unsolicited credit card offers every year.

Many of those unsolicited mailings include so-called “convenience checks”that can be stolen and cashed by someone other than the authorized card holder. Yet the card companies and their banks spend only four percent of the swipe fees they collect on measures to protect consumers from this and other forms of credit card fraud.

U.S. swipe fees average close to two percent, while in other industrialized countries like Australia the rate is one-half of one percent and in Europe the rate for cross border transactions is less than one-third of one percent.
Visa and MasterCard each separately work with their member banks collectively to set the price of swipe fees. This is illegal price fixing and hurts Americans. Credit card swipe fees have tripled since 2001 and there’s no end in sight, even though the actual cost of transaction processing continues to go down.
American consumers pay the hidden credit card swipe fee on virtually every purchase they make, whether they use a credit card or not because the credit card companies require merchants to spread the cost of these fees to all of their customers. The system is structured so that credit card companies make more money on each transaction when the price of retail goods increases. For example, even though the cost of processing a $1 transaction is virtually the same as processing a $100 transaction, the swipe fee paid on that $100 sale is higher because the swipe fee is calculated as a percentage of the total sale. The higher the sale, the higher the fee.
A group of retailers, supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores, fuel stations, and other businesses are fighting against unfair credit card fees. They want a more competitive and transparent card system that works better for consumers and merchants alike and have formed the Merchants Payments Coalition and launched the website unfaircreditcardfees.com. The coalition’s member associations collectively represent about 2.7 million stores with approximately 50 million employees.

Convenience stores across the nation, who are among the hardest hit by unfair swipe fees because of the fees assessed to gasoline sales, have taken action to alert their customers about these fees and are collecting millions of signatures urging Congress to reform the system. In addition, this website you are visiting (fightswipefees.com) makes it easy for consumers to sign an online petition to Congress or even send a letter directly to their representatives urging action to reform unfair swipe fees.

Individual consumers are beginning to take action to urge Congress to reform unfair swipe fees. In the summer of 2009, nearly 1.7 million consumers signed petitions at 7-Eleven stores urging such action. This winter, millions more are signing similar petitions in convenience stores across the country or via this website (fightswipefees.com).
A rare bi-partisan consensus has emerged that the forces that drive free enterprise should also drive how swipe fees get set. Currently, Congress is considering legislation specifically focused on this issue as well as other bills that are expected to address reform. The following are key actions taken or expected to be taken in the near future:
  • H.R. 2965, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act and S. 1212, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act. These bills are very similar and each will allow merchants to come together and negotiate with the credit card companies and their banks swipe fee rates and acceptance terms. Similar legislation was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in 2008.
  • H.R. 2382, the Credit Card Interchange Fees Act. This bill will repeal some of the rules imposed by credit card companies on merchants that are anti-competitive, empower the Federal Trade Commission to take further action if necessary and will require disclosure of swipe fee rates and rules.
  • Government Accountability Office report on Rising Interchange Fees (PDF).  This report confirms many of the most harmful aspects of unfair, hidden swipe fees. The report shows that the credit card companies and their issuing banks have been misleading the public about their increasing rates and about the benefits of credit cards to businesses. The report also outlines an unfair, anti-competitive system that hurts Main Street businesses and their customers in order to pad the banks’ bottom lines, with little relation to the actual costs of processing payments.

 

In addition, several national consumer organizations are urging Congress to take action. These include:
U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group). In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Edmund Mierzwinski (PDF), PIRG’s consumer program director, supported legislation to reform unfair swipe fees and said:

Interchange fees are hidden charges paid by all Americans, regardless of whether they use credit, debit, checks or cash. These fees impose the greatest hardship on the most vulnerable consumers – the millions of American consumers without credit cards or banking relationships. These consumers basically subsidize credit and debit card usage by paying inflated prices – prices inflated by the billions of dollars of anticompetitive interchange fees. And unfortunately, those interchange fees continue to accelerate, because there is nothing to restrain Visa and MasterCard from charging consumers and merchants more.

Americans for Financial Reform. This is a coalition of 200 national, state and local consumer, labor, retiree, investor, community, and civil rights organizations who have come together to spearhead a campaign for real reform in our banking and financial system. In an official policy paper endorsing swipe fee reformt, the group said:

Markets don’t work when there are hidden fees and rules – and no one hides fees and rules better than the credit card companies. Credit card markets lack the information necessary for both consumers and merchants to make informed choices. For merchants, the markets lack adequate information because the associations prevent merchants from accurately informing consumers of the costs of credit card acceptance or attempting to direct them to more efficient and lower priced payment mechanisms.  In fact, merchants have no alternative but to accept the card associations’ cards even when the associations significantly increase prices.

source: http://fightswipefees.com/about.asp


Be Part of the Biggest Consumer Petition Drive in American History

November 30, 2009

via NACS Press Release

NACS launches phase two of a consumer petition campaign to tell Congress, ‘’Stop unfair credit card fees.’

ALEXANDRIA, VA – More than 8,000 retail stores have signed up as part of the biggest consumer petition drive in American history. These retailers and their customers are telling Congress, “It’s time to reform unfair credit/debit card swipe fees.”  Now, NACS is empowering other retailers to join the campaign by visiting www.nacsonline.com/fightswipefees.This fall, 7-Eleven franchisees delivered nearly 1.7 million customer signatures to Congress — the largest number of signatures collected for a public policy issue in history — urging members to “Stop unfair credit card fees.” 

Beginning December 15, NACS is coordinating an unprecedented campaign to generate millions more signatures from convenience customers, encouraging Congress to reform unfair credit and debit card interchange, or “swipe,” fees. 

The campaign, the second phase of the industry’s consumer petition campaign, was announced on October 21 at the NACS Show in Las Vegas and immediately generated the participation of thousands of stores throughout the country,.

Both 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto and Alimentation Couche-Tard CEO Alain Bouchard, who led his company’s credit card interchange petition drive that collected 400,000-plus customer signatures at its Circle K stores, urged retailers to launch their own petition drive in their stores in a video introduced at the NACS Show. 

NACS has made joining this effort easy. All the materials retailers need to participate in the latest petition campaign are available free of charge at http://www.nacsonline.com/fightswipefees. These materials can be downloaded and sent to a local printer and then displayed in stores. 

If you have not already signed up, visit www.nacsonline.com/fightswipefees today.


NACS Study: US Pays More for Interchange “Swipe” Fees

September 18, 2009

A new study by the Merchants Payments Coalition finds that Americans pay a much higher percentage for interchange charges than the rest of the industrialized world.

WASHINGTON, DC – A new study by the Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC) found that if U.S. consumers paid the same low credit and debit card swipe fees as consumers in Australia pay, then the net benefit would have totaled $125 billion over the last four years.

Interchange fees, or “swipe fees,” cost Americans an average of $2 on every $100 they spend with credit cards — a higher percentage than anywhere else in the industrialized world. Why? Because other countries and their governments have been able to negotiate with the big banks and credit card companies for fair rates and transparency, the MPC notes. NACS is one of the founding members of the MPC.

But, in the United States merchants and their customers are still forced to pay sky-high interchange fees.

Interchange fees started out in the 1960s as a way for banks to cover the cost of processing credit card transactions. But even as technology has dropped that cost dramatically, the banks and credit card companies have pushed swipe fees higher and higher, turning it into a cash cow. For many businesses, credit card fees are now their single-highest non-labor operating cost.

With almost any other equipment, supplier or service, retailers can comparison-shop, negotiate or otherwise influence its final cost of doing business. Store owners can conserve on energy usage and seek out the most competitive prices for merchandise, just to cite a few examples.

Not so with credit card interchange fees. Visa and MasterCard control more than 80 percent of the marketplace. They set the fees in secret, give businesses no ability to negotiate and virtually insist they be buried in the price of merchandise. Unfortunately, the card companies’ hidden fees get passed on to all consumers in the form of higher prices and lower value for nearly everything they buy.

“It’s bad enough that the credit card companies force these hidden fees on us and our customers when we can least afford it,” noted NACS Vice Chairman of Government Relations Tom Robinson, president of Robinson Oil Corporation. “But when we are paying more than anywhere else in the world, and other countries have taken action to protect their citizens from abuse, it is inconceivable that our government would turn a blind eye to the issue. It is time for Congress to step up and defend the principles of the free-market economy by taking action on (interchange) fees.”

Though Congress and the White House have addressed other credit card reforms, the MPC is arguing that any fix will be incomplete without addressing interchange fees. Consider:

Banks raked in an estimated $48 billion in interchange fees in 2008 – an average of $427 per American household in just one year.

  • This $48 billion total is more than triple the amount collected as recently as in 2001.
  • Hidden interchange fees cost Americans more than all credit card annual fees, cash advance fees, over-the-limit fees, and late fees combined.
  • U.S. interchange fees are the highest in the developed world. The U.S. pays approximately 60 percent of interchange fees globally – about double the U.S. percentage share of global GDP.

Compared to the rest of the world, U.S. interchange fees are more than two times the rates in the U.K. and New Zealand, four times the rates in Australia and more than six times the cross-border rates recently agreed upon by MasterCard and the European Union.

Meanwhile, the payments industry has back with its own “study.”

In a September 17 press release, Visa announced the findings of a new study that shows that “consumers believe retailers benefit far more from accepting credit and debit cards than they pay in costs.

The press release noted that consumers believe merchants see card cost acceptance as a part of doing business, much like paying for utilities such as electricity.

“Retailers and their well-funded trade associations have filed lawsuits and are aggressively lobbying Congress to allow them to shift their business costs to consumers by allowing merchants to charge checkout fees whenever consumers use credit or debit cards. At the same time, national convenience store chains have launched misleading, in-store petition campaigns to cover for their checkout fee efforts, noted Visa’s press release.

“The response is loud and clear: consumers aren’t buying the message convenience store chains and big retailers are selling,” said Bill Sheedy, group president of the Americas for Visa Inc., in the release. “This research demonstrates that consumers are well aware that legislation is a Trojan horse that likely will lead to higher prices for cardholders while retailers pocket the savings.”