Credit card bill fees deserve passage

Published 7:57 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When it comes to credit card swipe fees, Americans are getting Third World treatment.

U.S. consumers and businesses pay markedly higher charges than those in other developed nations when it comes to purchasing with plastic, according to a report by the Merchants Payment Coalition. …

Every time a consumer uses credit, roughly 2 percent to 3 percent of the charge goes to banks or other payment networks, which set the fees at rates that often vary from country to country. American swipe fees are double those in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and four times those in Australia, the merchants contend.

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The beauty part for the credit card issuer is that it scores twice — once in a transaction fee it gets from the merchant and again with an interest charge to the customer. In 2008, those charges produced an estimated $48 billion for American banks, an average of $427 per household, the merchant coalition claims.

The swipe fees per transaction are small but have almost tripled in amount over the last decade. …

Lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., have introduced legislation that would impose more restrictions on such fees.

That’s a good start, but it’s not enough. The bills are stuck in committee. They deserve a better treatment, as do the merchants and consumers burdened by these too-high charges.

The Star-Ledger

Newark, N.J.