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Credit card firms agree to cut merchant fees

August 9, 2018  By Ground Water Canada

Ottawa – The federal government has helped secure new, separate and voluntary commitments from three payment card networks that will lead to lower costs for small and medium-sized businesses.

With lower interchange fees, businesses will be able to save money that they can use to invest, grow, and create more jobs, Department of Finance Canada said in a news release.

These commitments from Visa, Mastercard, and American Express will make credit card acceptance fairer for small and medium-sized enterprises, which have less bargaining power than larger merchants to negotiate lower rates, the department said. The commitments will also help to maintain card benefits such as reward programs.


As part of their new commitments, Visa and Mastercard will: 1) reduce domestic consumer interchange fees to an annual average effective rate of 1.40 per cent for a period of five years; 2) narrow the range of interchange rates (lowest versus highest fee) charged to businesses; and 3) require annual verification by an independent third party.

The Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who made the announcement, also welcomed a separate voluntary commitment from American Express he said will promote greater fairness and transparency in the Canadian credit card market. This commitment recognizes the fact that American Express operates a unique business model with fees other than interchange fees.

The reduction in interchange fees is expected to save small and medium-sized businesses in Canada $250 million per year, based on credit card sales of roughly $250 billion per year.

For a medium-sized business with credit sales of $5 million per year, a 10 basis point reduction in interchange fees—equivalent to the reduction announced today—could allow for savings of up to $25,000 over five years.

For smaller businesses with credit sales of $1 million per year, a 15 basis point reduction in interchange fees could allow for savings of up to $7,500 over five years. Due to the narrowing in the range of interchange fees, it is expected that small businesses will receive a greater reduction in interchange fees than large businesses, under the new agreements.

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