Friday, October 26, 2007

Fact: Visa®, MasterCard® and Its Member Banks Are Profiteering From Califorina's Wildfires (

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 [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."