Card networks step back under pressure from trade groups and lawmakers
“Recognizing U.S. businesses are still facing many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Visa has decided to significantly modify its planned April 2021 business release to delay the implementation of a number of interchange rate changes,” a Visa spokesperson said in a statement provided to CSP Daily News.
The card networks originally planned to increase their interchange fees, which are charged to the retailer whenever a customer uses a credit or debit card to pay for a transaction, in April 2020. Today marks the second delay in implementing the swipe fee increase due to the pandemic.
“We are encouraged by the signs of economic recovery that we’re seeing in the U.S. and in other markets with the continued approval and availability of effective vaccines. Mindful that some merchants are still facing unprecedented circumstances, and consistent with our earlier commitment to be thoughtful on the timing of implementation, we are delaying our previously announced interchange adjustments in the U.S. until April 2022,” a Mastercard spokesperson said in a statement provided to CSP Daily News.
NACS, other trade groups and lawmakers have been pressuring the card firms to delay the swipe fee increases due to the pandemic’s effect on business growth.
“Just as increased vaccination efforts start to give our Main Street business hope for a summer reopening, your companies propose slamming struggling merchants, and by extension consumers, with fee increases,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said in a recent open letter to the card networks. “Raising your fees would undermine efforts to help the economy recover and further reduce Americans’ purchasing power.”
While the matrix of fees is complex, the net impact is estimated at increases of $768 million a year for Visa and $383 million for Mastercard, or a total of $1.15 billion, according to analysis by global payments consulting firm CMSPI.
Swipe fees vary widely according to type of card, type of transaction and size of merchant, but average out to 2.25% of the transaction amount for Visa and Mastercard credit cards, according to the Nilson report, a trade newsletter that follows the card industry. The fees have increased dramatically in recent years, more than doubling from $25.6 billion a year in 2009 to $67.6 billion in 2019 for Visa and Mastercard credit cards alone, according to credit card research firm Nilson. Overall processing fees paid by U.S. merchants to accept all card payments totaled $116.4 billion in 2019, up 88% over the previous decade, it said.