Sunday, November 13, 2011

How To Save On Your Merchant Accounts Fees

With debit swipe fee reform now implemented, retailers nationwide are anticipating saving on the interchange portion of their merchant accounts fees.  Preliminary data indicates that millions of dollars in charges may be coming their way.

The Durbin Amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 went into effect on October 1, 2011. Under it, the Federal Reserve capped the interchange fees banks can charge on debit card transactions at 21 cents, plus 0.05 percent of the transaction. Issuers are also allowed to charge an additional penny per debit transaction to offset their fraud prevention costs. The new average swipe fee for a debit card purchase is 23 cents, compared to the pre-Durbin average of 44 cents.

It’s important to note that the legislation applies only to Visa® and MasterCard® debit cards (not credit cards), and only to banks with more than $10 billion in assets. It caps the interchange fees that the banks charge, but does not apply to third-part processors, who can charge whatever they want to their merchant accounts customers.

“As an industry, we’re really pleased that the new rules have now taken effect,” Connecticut Retail Merchants Association President Timothy Phelan recently told the Hartford Business Journal. “We really won’t know the true benefit until the retailers get their statements.” Phelan added that he expects that merchants, in time, will pass along any savings they receive to their merchant accounts customers.

The business journal reported that Connecticut merchants could expect to save about $260 for every $100,000 in Visa and MasterCard debit charges they process.

In the months leading up to its enactment, the Durbin Amendment prompted an epic battle on Capitol Hill that pit credit card-issuing banks against merchants and their associations. The banks argued that they would lose billions of dollars in revenue from lower fees — income they threatened to recoup by charging debit card customers monthly fees to use their cards. Several major banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase, dropped that idea after cardholders rebelled and threatened to close their accounts.

For now, retailers are waiting for their first post-Durbin Amendment merchant accounts statements to arrive to see how they’ve fared under the new rules. If they have questions regarding their savings, they should discuss them with their merchant services provider representative.

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