$6 Billion Visa/MasterCard Settlement

Credit card securityBCMS strives to go the extra mile to save you money. We want you to know what you’re getting at what cost and we look for ways to increase your bottom line. As a merchant, you need to know about the new $6 billion Visa/MasterCard settlement. The Federal Court has preliminarily approved a proposed $6+ billion settlement in a class action lawsuit, called In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 1720 (JG)(JO). The lawsuit is about claims that merchants paid excessive fees to accept Visa and MasterCard cards because Visa and MasterCard, individually, and together with their respective member banks, violated the antitrust laws.

The monetary portion of the settlement consists of two funds. The first is a cash fund in the amount of $6.05 billion that will pay valid claims of any person, business, or other entity that accepted Visa or MasterCard branded credit or debit cards in the U.S. between January 1, 2004 and November 28, 2012. The second fund is estimated to be up to approximately $1.2 billion in total and is equivalent to a portion of the interchange fees attributable to merchants that do not exclude themselves from the Rule 23(b) Settlement Class (“Cash Settlement Class”) and that accepted Visa and MasterCard credit cards during an eight-month period to begin by July 29, 2013. This fund will pay valid claims of members of the Cash Settlement Class that accepted Visa or MasterCard credit cards during the eight-month period.

The settlement will also require Visa and MasterCard to change some rules for merchants who accept their cards, including to allow merchants to do the following:

  • Charge customers an extra fee if they pay with Visa or MasterCard credit cards,
  • Offer discounts to customers who pay with payment forms less expensive than Visa or MasterCard credit or debit cards,
  • Accept Visa or MasterCards at fewer than all of the merchant’s trade names or banners, and
  • Form “buying groups” that meet certain criteria to negotiate with Visa and MasterCard

For full terms of the settlement and to make a claim, please visit www.paymentcardsettlement.com or call (800) 625-6440.

*BCMS and Elavon are not parties of this lawsuit.

What are Interchange Fees?

Credit CardsInterchange fees account for the majority of credit card processing expense, and a familiarity with interchange is vital knowledge for any business owner or manager. Interchange is the cost of the money transferred from the acquiring bank to the issuing bank for each bankcard transaction. These interchange fees are established by the card brands (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, JCB, Union Pay).

Interchange fees for the two largest card brands may change twice annually in April and October. The interchange fee schedules for Visa and MasterCard can be found here:

Here is an infographic from the Strawhecker Group that illustrates an explanation of what merchants pay to accept credit cards, why it’s paid, and the benefits provided to merchants and consumers:

At BCMS, we guarantee the lowest processing rates in the industry, so you never have to worry if you’re paying too much for processing. We offer a cost-plus pricing structure which is the basic interchange rate plus a few basis points to cover our services. To lessen the impact of interchange fees, you may follow this guide:

Interchange Qualification

A number of factors are used to determine where a transaction qualifies at interchange. Some of these factors can be controlled or influenced by the merchant while others can’t.

Factors that merchants can influence include:

  • Processing method: Card-present and card-not-present are the terms used to generally refer to the different ways of processing a credit card transaction. Card-present interchange categories carry smaller fees than card-not-present categories.
    • Card-Present: Card-present transactions are those where a merchant actually swipes a card through a terminal or by an imprinted and signed credit card draft.
    • Card-Not-Present: Card-not-present transactions (CNP, MO/TO, Mail Order / Telephone Order, MOTOEC) are made where the cardholder is not physically present with the card at the time that the payment is effected. This situation is most common for internet, mail-order, or fax transactions and is a major route for credit card fraud.
  • Transaction data: The information supplied with a credit card transaction impacts how it qualifies at interchange. Proper and complete transaction data is especially important for merchants that process card-not-present transactions and for those that deal with corporate and government enhanced data.
  • Merchant Category Code: Specific interchange categories exist for businesses that fall under a certain merchant category code (MCC) designations.

Interchange qualification factors that a merchant can’t control include:

  • Card Type: Separate interchange categories exist for credit and debit card charges.
  • Card Brand: The brand of a bankcard will impact interchange qualification. This criterion is typically associated with credit cards that yield some type of reward for the cardholder.
  • Card Owner: Whether a credit or debit card is issued to an individual, business, corporation or municipal agency impacts interchange qualification.

The extent to which interchange can be optimized for your business depends on several variables. To learn more about interchange fees, please contact us today.

Visa & MasterCard Settlement Information

Navigating the increasing number of changes in the payments industry can be difficult for companies of any size. At BCMS, we realize the importance of providing proactive information related to industry changes that may have an impact on your business. In support of this, our partner, Elavon, has developed a guide to help you understand the important details related to the Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation and the recent settlement proposed by Visa® and MasterCard®.

 

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Settlement Information

Merchant Surcharging

In November 2012, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York preliminarily approved a proposed settlement agreement in the In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation. As part of this settlement, Merchants in the U.S. and U.S. territories have the ability to surcharge certain credit card transactions beginning January 27, 2013. Merchants who choose to surcharge once the rule changes take place will be required to follow certain requirements, including disclosure of surcharge practices to customers at the store entry point and at the point of sale. To learn more about Merchant Surcharging, please download the PDF below or visit www.visa.com/merchantsurcharging.

 Factors to consider:

  • What will my customers think?
  • What will I need to disclose to my customers?
  • What will my competitors do?

 

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Merchant Surcharging