Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Interchange Debit Card Fees Are Anything But 'Price-less' (

[Repost from March 19, 2006]

Have the bank-owned credit card associations gotten into the cartoon business?

The popular "Where's Waldo" books are a search-and-find photo scavenger hunt designed as a thinking game for educators to develop exercises for children to learn. In each case, Waldo is hidden in the background and the challenge is to identify where he is.

The same activity occurs when a consumer presents a Debit, ATM or Check Card to merchants. In what is becoming a more frequent exercise, retailers are finding it more challenging than ever to identify, not Waldo, but the "debit" or other PIN identification to differenciate the various cards. Why is this so important? Visa and MasterCard's revenues are enhanced when retailers are tricked into accepting the cards which instantly deduct funds from a bank account and forced to pay higher interchange fees.

When a non-credit card is transacted, the rates are significantly lower. Most merchants we have talked with are unaware of the differences in fees and their sales clerks are too busy to play the banks version of the "Where’s Waldo" game. Often, the word "debit" is hidden within the hologram or colored to match the background. An examination of the card requires more than a glance, but the result for running the payment at the much higher credit card rate is a costly oversight.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Visa to Disclose Regs, With Strings Attached" (The Green Sheet)

Visa U.S.A. announced recently that it will disclose its operating regulations to both merchants and U.S. Senators, effective Sept. 1. But there's a hitch: Merchants will be subject to nondisclosure agreements (NDAs). Visa stated it will make the regulations available "to important stakeholders in the Visa system" as a step toward transparency.

"While Visa's merchant rules guide has been available for over a decade, and it is among the most viewed documents on our Web site, some merchants have asked us to provide even more detail," the Association said in a statement.

"We are responding to this request by sharing Visa's operating regulations with those qualifying merchants and third-party agents who participate in the Visa system. The operating regulations will be available beginning September 1, 2006, and will be provided under a nondisclosure agreement to protect confidentiality." At a hearing July 19 before the
Senate Judiciary Committee on interchange fees ("Summer heat wave sweeps Senate Judiciary interchange hearing" in this issue), a Visa representative agreed to provide the committee with a copy of its operating regulations. Visa will do so by the end of August, the Association told The Green Sheet. It was not able to say by press time whether Senators will be subject to an NDA.

"Sen. [Arlen] Specter, [R-Pa.] was direct about it, that they should be made available, and not under an NDA," W. Stephen Cannon said in an interview. Cannon testified on behalf of the Merchants Payments Coalition. "The Senator said he'd provide them to me to clear up any discrepancy of what the rules did or didn't say."

Visa said it expects the rules disclosure to demonstrate the complexity of the industry and the lengths to which Visa has gone to balance the interests of members, merchants and consumers. "In sharing them, our goal is to provide partners with the information they are interested in, without sacrificing Visa's intellectual property or the security of the system," Visa stated.

Other recent steps toward openness Visa has taken include the publication of its annual report and the appointment of independent directors to its board. "We are now taking transparency one step further," Visa stated.

[source: The Green Sheet]

"Summer Heat Wave Sweeps Senate Judiciary Interchange Hearing" (The Green Sheet)

[repost from March 14, 2006] The Mission:

Monday, August 28, 2006

Interchange Is No Small Change (

If you have traveled to Las Vegas recently, the latest spin on slot machines is the electronic valuation button. Rather than playing at a quarter or dollar machine, casinos make it easier and faster to pocket your money. There are fewer coin-operated machines; most just accept paper currency. And, they have this new feature - you choose the machine's valuation for each spin. From 25-cents, to $1, $2, $5. It is your choice - don't forget to always play the full value.

This certainly is no small change, especially if you are accustomed to leisurely playing the quarter machines. Get a few lucky jackpots and you feel compelled to instantly change the currency to a richer denomination.

The difference between a casino and Visa® or MasterCard® is that at least you know what you are playing in Vegas. The rates keep changing, but you are in control. When consumers use their debit and credit cards at a store, doctor's office or anywhere that cards are accepted - because there are nearly one-hundred differing interchange fees - it is anyone's guess what the actual fee will be. And, that is just how the credit card associations like it.

As a retailer and ecommerce business-owner, we have no clue what the individual merchant interchange fees are. But, like millions of other merchants, we too know it is no small change.

Each year the banks reap billions (~$25-billion last year) from these fees which they control by agreement and stand accused by us of illegally fixing the prices on.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Even Cardholders are Perplexed by Debit vs. Credit Cards (

Today a customer pulled out an ATM card and then switched it for a credit card, but not before we noticed that they used a sharpie to mark "ATM" and Credit" on each card.


Because, they could not identify the difference between the two cards. If cardholders are confused, think of the harried sales clerk who needs to identify with lightening-fast accuracy whether to perform a credit or debit transaction. Read this recent posting to understand the depths to which Visa® and MasterCard Worldwide® go to process cards at the much higher percent -of-sale credit card merchant interchange rate.


"Abandon Credit Cards at Pump" (The Billings Outpost)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

$48,000,000,000 Paid by U.S. Merchants in 2005 for Credit and Debit Card Fees (The Nilson Report)

According to the August, 2006 issue of The Nilson Report, merchants [and thus, consumers] in the U.S. paid more than $48 billion in total, collective credit and debit card fees.

[source, The Nilson Report (subscription required)]

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Background: Retail Profile on Lead Plantiff, 30 Minute Photos Etc. (

Photos scanned superfast: Hundreds of old pictures are ready in minutes

By TAMARA CHUANG, The Orange County Register, Aug 15, 2006

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Within minutes, a small machine inside 30 Minute Photos Etc. in Irvine has scanned nearly 1,000 photos.

Customers are bringing boxes of old photos for owner Mitch Goldstone to turn into digital memories. But the Kodak i660 super scanner is no toy. It cost Goldstone $60,000. It's one of maybe two available to consumers nationwide, says Kodak, which usually sells the machines to businesses that scan thousands of checks, documents and other files daily.

Digital photography turned Goldstone's business from one that helped customers develop a half-dozen rolls of film a year to one that has customers from all over the country ordering hundreds of photos at a time.

But the i660 is adding something else.

The machine, which looks like a small copier, can handle almost all photo sizes, from 2 1/2–by-3 inches to 11-by-14 inches. It can scan both sides in case there's writing on the back. When the order is done, images are burned to disc. The shop charges about $50 for 1,000 photos.
Goldstone enjoys the mysteriousness of the speedy scanner, especially when he presents a customer with the finished CD within minutes of an order.

But Goldstone gave the Register a special behind-the-scenes look at the machine. See our video of the scanner in action.
For more on the service – and to see the results of our own order – go online to

[source: OC Register]

Monday, August 14, 2006

"MasterCard's Name Tweak" (The Green Sheet)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Accord Urged in Merchant Suit" (American Banker)

[Wed. Aug 9, subscription required]

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Visa: 20 Days Past Due" (

"Visa General Counsel Joshua Floum promised July 19 to hand over to the Senate Judiciary Committee the secret Visa rules that explain why American consumers are being charged $26 billion in credit card interchange fees each year. When will Visa turn over these secret rules?"


Sunday, August 06, 2006

"Credit Card Fees Siphoning Gas Stations’ Profit" (The Times-Tribune)

Visa® and MasterCard® Say Merchants Don't Have to Use Their Branded Cards (

With 80-percent market dominance and an unbridled control over the entire credit card payment business, Visa® and MasterCard® say merchants can look elsewhere.

The reality.

Retailers' businesses must accept Visa and MasterCard. We are forced to accept their cards or face not being in business. In our opinion, this is no different than a powerful cartel which controls the entire market.

As reported in the Gannett News Service, Visa USA® Vice President, Rhonda Bentz said "[t]hese lawsuits are an attempt by larger retailers, national chain stores and Washington special interest groups to shift the normal costs of doing business onto consumers..." Ms. Bentz forgot about us. 30 Minute Photos Etc. (lead plaintiff in the interchange antitrust litigation) is a retail and ecommerce business that is not part of a large chain or other mentioned category. Instead, we represent millions of ordinary merchants. We are Visa's® core customer and from the more than 400 prior postings, we take exception with the card association's redirection of the facts.

From the pot calling the kettle black.

As for Washington special interests, how does Visa explain their Washington D.C.-based Americans for Consumer Education and Competition, Inc., which "has the financial support of Visa USA®?" This is the group which runs surveys and issues press releases promoting Visa®-biased issues?


Friday, August 04, 2006

Reader Comments (

The below edited email reflects a typical sampling of the type of calls and comments being received by - The Credit Card Interchange Report.


I wanted to take a moment to commend you and Carl on your efforts toward attacking the Interchange [r]ate problem merchants in the U.S. are facing. I wish you all the luck in that endeavor. For your info, I am approaching the problem from the other side of the table, i.e., excessive and deceptive card processing companies.

I have started an educational blog for merchants within my area of specialization (Resort & Vacation Rental industry) passing along insider tips, tactics, do's and don'ts to help them lower their expense line. Even though the blog is targeted, I believe there's good information in it for any type of merchant.

Chris Walker

Panama City Beach, Florida

An Orgy of Credit Card and Bank Profiteering From Record Pump Prices (

No Relief From Visa® and MasterCard's® Unbridled Service Station Interchange Fees.

No matter how high gas prices rise, the banks parallel the results with percent-of-sale credit card revenues that keep rising too.

We noted that the recent MasterCard® earnings news reports included mention that although the nation faces record gas prices, the company did not experience a decline in card use, even though other sectors, like restaurants and businesses which are the engine of our economy faltered. The reason: they benefit from windfall profiteering at the gas pumps.

According to a Gannett News Service article, "Swiping [a] Visa at an Ellicott City, Md., Mobil station recently, Charles Oshodi never imagined 8.7 cents of every $3.19 he paid per gallon of gas went toward credit card fees."

This should come as no surprise. As motorists are forced to charge for fill-ups, the pumps' electronic dollar amount flashes by at lightening-fast speed, and inversely to the ever-slower gallons gage.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Shut Out of New Markets, PIN Debit Faces Big Growth Challenges" (Digital Transactions)

Debit Card Double Standard (

As students prepare for another term back at school, MasterCard Worldwide® just issued a press release again encouraging the use of debit cards. What is missing from the release are the excessive fees merchants are burdened with when PIN cards are transacted at the much higher percent-of-sale rates. While expounding the value of debit cards as a budgetary tool, the real cost factors are omitted.

Last year, a Visa USA®-funded advocacy group urged consumers to use debit cards as budget advice for transacting business ('Debit Card Becoming Card of Choice for Good Reasons. This release is more of the same, but today, many of the reward and incentive program then mandate that debit card holders should then use it as traditional signature, higher-interchange rate transactions.

[source: with link to Aug 3rd, Businesswire release]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006