Most merchants have likely seen a disclaimer on their monthly credit card processing statements about an upcoming increase in Interchange rates. The card associations (Visa and MasterCard) have announced some significant changes. As you are probably aware there are hundreds of different Interchange categories. During April and October, rates in some categories are increased or decreased, and new categories are created. These Interchange rates are not to be confused with reimbursement fees. I mention this because there are two different rate charts. Reimbursement fees are charged to financial institutions to transfer funds between issuing banks. Yes, the banks pay percentages as well.
Several new categories will take effect October 3rd, 2008. Debt Repayment, Government to Government, and Tax Payment are some of Visa’s new categories.
Credit card processing has been around for many years in some form or another. Back on the “Little House on the Prairie,” the Olsen general store allowed consumers to pay for items on an account. All the consumers were kept in a log book and paid when they could. We have evolved as a nation, and so has our technology.
In New York, in 1950, the first credit card was released by Franklin National Bank of Long Island. It was also in New York in 2001 that our entire outlook changed. The World Trade Center was attacked and Homeland Security was created to protect our nation from terrorism. The government put in place The Patriot Act, which affected the merchant services industry by putting stricter guidelines on account approvals. Merchants are now required to submit a copy of government issued documents identifying themselves and their business.
The following items are considered acceptable (you will need a minimum of one from each category):
“Interchange fee” is a term used in the payment card industry to describe a fee that a merchant’s bank (the “acquiring bank”) pays a customer’s bank (the “issuing bank”) when merchants accept cards using card networks, such as Visa and MasterCard, for purchases. Although Visa and MasterCard determine Interchange rates, the fees are not retained by them. They only act as intermediaries between the members on either end of the transaction.
In nature we have the cycle of life – in card processing we have the life of a transaction. It is important to understand where the fees come from and know who all the players are.
Our economy is in a downturn and many financial institutions are tightening up guidelines and raising fees. These days even acquiring banks are cracking down on various business types. No company wants to take on a possible financial loss. There are merchant services providers out there that specialize in high risk business, but you have to be prepared to provide all the information that is requested.
Merchants may be required to provide the following:
There are many third party processors out there that benefit when the Bank Card Associations (Visa and MasterCard) raise their rates. They look at this as an opportunity to make an additional profit from their merchants. Merchant services providers get to decide how they will pass the various increases and decreases through to the merchant. More often it is the increases that get passed on, and not the decreases. New Visa Interchange rates, MasterCard Interchange rates, and other processor Interchange rate schedules are typically published by the Bank Card Associations in April and October.
Since there are many different processing categories for Interchange rates, they can be confusing to most merchants. Merchants pay higher or lower rates depending on, but not limited to, whether or not it was a rewards card, purchase card, or debit card. Rates can also be assessed based on your SIC code and how often you batch your terminal.