Debit Interchange Regulation Fallout

ABC News reports that Wells Fargo to Test $3 Debit Card Fee. Major banks have already begun to change qualifications on free checking accounts and end debit rewards programs.

An it appears that the anticipated result of these actions will be to steer consumers away from debit and toward reward credit and charge card products that carry more expensive merchant Interchange rates.

"An Associated Press-GfK poll last month found that about two-thirds of consumers use debit cards more frequently than credit cards. When asked how they would react if they were charged a $3 monthly fee for their debit card, 61 percent said they'd find another way to pay. If the fee was $5 a month, two-thirds said they'd do the same. If the fee was $7, the figure rose to 81 percent."

Our concern for small business has always been the unintended consequences of a debit only Interchange regulation given that its a natural course of business to find ways around government intervention in free markets. Lower debit rates promise initial savings but will a merchant's bottom line payment acceptance cost actually go up if consumers stop using debit cards in favor of other (more expensive) ways to pay?

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