The National Restaurant Association is standing behind the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, legislation introduced by U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Representative Chris Cannon (R-Utah). The bipartisan legislation will allow businesses of all sizes to negotiate directly with credit card companies in an effort to reduce the artificially high credit card interchange fees.
“Many of our members have expressed concern about the unexplained increases in fees and inability to negotiate a fairer rate with credit card companies,” says John Gay, senior vice president of government affairs and public policy for the National Restaurant Association. “The Credit Card Fair Fee Act is a solution to an issue that poses a burden to small businesses across the country.”
Intercharge fees are meant to cover the cost of processing a credit card transaction and the risk taken by the issuing bank that it will be repaid. However, reports show that the cost of processing is steadily decreasing in the United States, while rates continue to rise. The result appears to be an increase in revenue for the card issuer and a drain on business' bottom lines. Interchange fees amount to about $2 of every $100 spent using cards.
Bakeries have been feeling the pinch, as credit card use among consumers is increasing along with the average interchange rates. Todd Wagner of Wagner's Bakery, Olympia, Wash., has noticed a major shift towards plastic over the last several years. He says that credit cards now account for half the transactions in his shop.
Mike Kalupa, owner of Kalupa's Bakery, Tampa, Fla., and president of the Retail Bakers of America, says the trend toward credit card use is more than an uptick, but rather a surge or tidal wave. Without the ability to individually negotiate with credit card companies, bakers are often forced to move from company to company in search of the most favorable rates. This process can be a headache, but is worth it as fees add up during the course of a year.
The convenience of plastic, combined with the rewards, points or miles that credit card companies offer, mean that credit card use among consumers is not likely to decrease.
The percentage is set by the credit card companies — generally Visa and MasterCard — and averages 1.75 percent of the total purchase price. In 2006, Visa and MasterCard banks collected more than $36 billion in interchange fees, up 17 percent from 2005 and 117 percent since 2001. In 2007, the fees amounted to $42 billion.