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Legislative

Swipe Card Reform: One Year Later, Restaurants and Customers Ready and Waiting for Relief from High Debit Card Fees

May 16, 2011


(Washington, D.C.) One year after Congress passed a landmark law putting an end to exorbitant and unnecessary debit card processing fees, customers and businesses alike are ready to see reforms implemented. But the wait for relief may continue indefinitely if big banks and debit card issuers get their way as last minute efforts to stall the new regulations are underway.

“Swipe card fees are the fastest growing expense for restaurants. Currently at an average of 44 cents per transaction, they are even outpacing healthcare costs,” said Scott DeFife, Executive Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “Because restaurants operate on very slim margins, there is no choice but to pass these costs onto customers. We need swipe card relief now.”

Banks and debit card companies have mounted a last minute effort to do an end run around the Durbin Amendment and pre-empt the July 21 implementation of swipe fee reductions of nearly 70 percent by the Federal Reserve. Legislative bills S. 575 and H.R. 1081 would delay this fee relief by as much as two years, sticking businesses and customers with the unnecessary higher costs. Credit card companies and banks collected more than $36 billion in swipe fees last year alone. The average American family is currently paying more than $300 a year in hidden card transaction fees in addition to rising gas and food prices.

Despite advances in technology that continue to lower the costs of card processing, banks and card issuers continue to raise swipe fees. A recent study concluded that only 13% of the interchange fees that card companies collect actually goes to card processing. The remainder goes to profits, rewards programs and direct mail marketing.

“Restaurants, small businesses and Main Street customers all want swipe fee reform now. Congress listened and acted last year. It’s time for the big banks and card issuers to end their delay tactics and give consumers the much needed relief they deserve,” DeFife said.


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