Fed surprises markets with watered-down interchange caps

Fed surprises markets with watered-down interchange caps

Shares in major US issuing banks and card schemes moved up late Tuesday as the Federal Reserve issued a watered-down take on the Durbin Amendment on interchange fees, setting the cap at 21 cents per transaction, rather than the 12 cent ceiling proposed in earlier consultations.

Under the final rulings, issuers may charge up to 21 cents per transaction, plus an ad valorem component of up to five basis points of the transaction value, and an additional 1 cent per transaction charge to reflect a portion of fraud losses.

The new rates, which would lead to a more modest 50% cut in issuer revenue, rather than the 75% reduction originally expected, come into effect from October.

The ruling also introduces more competition in PIN-debit routing, insisting that issuers enable two unaffiliated networks for electronic debit transactions, and prohibiting interference in merchant network choices.

The Fed said it had fielded more than 11,000 comments during an eighteen-month consultation on the proposed rule changes.

But, the US central bank has come under fire from merchant and consumer groups, who believe that it has caved into intense lobbying from its banking constituency.

National Retail Federation president and CEO Matthew Shay, comments: "American consumers suffered a major loss today. We are extremely disappointed that the Federal Reserve chose to be influenced by special interests and ignored the will of Congress and American consumers. While the rate will provide modest relief, it does not go far enough."

Analysts meanwhile, issued a string of buy recommendations for stock in Visa, MasterCard and major issuing banks, which rose as markets revised earnings guidance upwards in light of the new rules.

Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 01 July, 2011, 15:58Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

The Federal Reserve reacted in the most responsible way they could to what is considered by most to be a “draconian” measure that is at most a knee jerk reaction by congressional leaders to any banking measure.  Not to mention those pandering to the retail lobby

Anyone that believes merchants will pass the interchange savings provided by the Durbin Amendment to consumers is living in la la land.  As equally naïve for anyone to believe that financial institutions would not be force to look at the product's income, the expense and risk and implement fees that would make it profitable.  So it really would be refreshing for Matthew Shay of the NRF to get off his soap box and credit the American consumer a little common sense.

That said, let me remind everyone that merchants praised the day that electronic transactions became the payment of choice…it is the least expensive method of payment and I truly hope that consumers now decide to write checks to the Wal-Marts and Targets and let them process those items which cost them 5 times more than an electronic transaction and have 100 times more losses in rejects.