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Debit card swipe fees fall

By Marcie Geffner ·
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

The usual suspects all had something to say in the latest round of the never-ending battle over bank swipe fees.

The Federal Reserve opened with new data showing the average interchange fee in the fourth quarter of 2011 declined to 24 cents for debit card issuers subject to the swipe fee cap and remained unchanged at 43 cents for issuers exempt from the limit.

Swipe fees, also known as interchange fees, occur when consumers use debit cards to pay for purchases.

The cap, imposed Oct. 1, 2011, limited swipe fees to 21 cents, plus 0.5 percent of the transaction amount and an additional 1 cent for certain fraud-prevention activities. Debit card issuers that have assets of less than $10 billion are exempt.

The American Bankers Association, or ABA, said in a statement it's too soon to tell what the full impact of the cap will be. The ABA also said the primary beneficiaries continue to be big-box retailers and the exemption for smaller banks can't work in the long term.

The Independent Community Bankers of America, or ICBA, said in a statement that the exemption worked during the first three months, but small issuers will experience a significant decrease in interchange income over time.

The organization also offered some (sort of) make-nice words for regulators: "ICBA appreciates the Fed’s commitment to continue monitoring how well the community bank exemption from the flawed debit card price-fixing law is working."

The National Retail Federation, or NRF, meanwhile, reiterated its complaint that the swipe fees weren't even lower.

NRF Senior Vice President Mallory Duncan, again in a statement, said the numbers for large issuers were too high.

“This is working the way the Fed set it up to work," Duncan said, "but the Fed didn’t fully comply with what Congress required. This is better than paying the full monopoly prices we paid before, but they are still partial monopoly prices.”

Consumers might want to issue their own statement as to whether they've received any benefit from the whole situation.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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