Payments companies’ CEO are joining forces as pressure mounts against card fee hikes

Payments companies’ CEO are joining forces as pressure mounts against card fee hikes

The CEOs of Amex, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa have banded together with the CEOs from payments giants FIS, Fiserv, and Global Payments to form the Payments Leadership Council (PLC), per Payments Dive. The PLC’s inaugural statement highlighted the importance and need for electronic payments, and it also outlined the council’s ambitions to “work with policymakers to promote inclusive growth, protect consumers, foster inclusion, cultivate innovation, and support a dynamic ecosystem for payments.” The council brought in Raj Date, former deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to serve as its founding director.

The PLC’s formation comes as tensions rise regarding some of its corporate members’ plans to raise card fees next month. Here’s what has been happening:

  • Mastercard and Visa are reportedly planning to raise merchant card fees in April. The fees are expected to affect certain credit card transactions—including online purchases, which have surged due to the coronavirus pandemic—and overall are expected to net $889 million in merchant costs annually. Both firms pushed back fee increases due to the pandemic in 2020, but they’re now looking to raise them for select purchases next month.
  • In response to anticipated card fee hikes, US Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-I.L., and US Representative Peter Welch, D-V.T., sent a letter to Mastercard and Visa. The letter, addressed to the CEOs of both firms, urged them to call off the planned fee increases due to the financial burdens it will create for merchants, which are already reeling from the pandemic. It's worth noting that Durbin was one of the key members responsible for introducing legislation that capped debit card fees back in 2010.

The Payments Leadership Council may be a response to this mounting pressure from legislators to put off card fee increases. The anticipated card fee increases aren’t mentioned in the PLC’s inaugural statement, but it may have been one of the reasons the council formed in the first place. Card networks like Visa and Mastercard don’t directly benefit from card fees, but their partner banks and merchant acquirers do. So, increasing fees could serve as a way for card networks to maintain and strengthen their relationships with other payment institutions. Therefore, the formation of the PLC may have come about as a way to lobby against the potential of additional regulation that could make it harder to hike up card fees, especially with prominent card fees critic Durbin spearheading the legislative initiative.

If you aren't currently an Insider Intelligence subscriber and would like to read more content like this, here's how to gain access:

  1. Join other Insider Intelligence clients who receive forecasts, briefings, charts, and research reports to their inboxes each day. >> Become a Client
  2. Explore related topics more in depth. >> Browse Our Coverage