The Official Merchant Services Blog continues to keep its finger on the pulse of the Durbin Amendment media buzz. The legislation that marks regulation that caps debit card swipe fees begins to take effect on October 1, 2011. And there’s still a lot of scrambling from various media sources to try and predict how banks, merchants and consumers will be impacted by the cap on the billion dollar payment processing industry.
Today, The Official Merchant Services Blog takes a look at two different articles discussing the Durbin Amendment and the changes it brings.
Banks Plan to Recoup Durbin Losses With Other Fees
The first article comes from mainstreet.com. It’s a pretty standard discussion of the most predicted reaction: Banks will react to the losses that the Durbin Amendment cap places on their swipe fee revenue from previous years by creating new service fees for debit card use. So instead of charging per swipe, the banks move the charge directly to the cardholder as a service fee for having debit card services available to them.
The article cites a robust number of debit card users in the U.S.:
That frames the basis of why banks are working to come up with a reaction to the Durbin Amendment. With that many debit card users in the country, there are billions of dollars in profit being cut into with the swipe cap. As the article explains, a quarterly survey of debit card use by financial consumers produced by Manhattan-based Auriemma Consulting Group finds: “banks remain stung by changes in debit card fees (called interchange fees) that reduced the amount of fees banks could charge customers for debit card transactions. The changes, which were triggered by the Durbin Amendment in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, basically cut debit card transaction fees in half, the ACG reports.”
The article goes on to explain how many banks are wary over the consumer backlash that could result from charging monthly fees for debit card use and scaling back or restricting reward points programs. The article quotes Ed Lawrence, director of the debit marketing roundtable at the ACG as saying: “The first-movers to institute debit/checking fees in a given market will experience the most scrutiny and possible attrition, along with negative press; as others follow, customers will have fewer places to move to.”
The conclusion drawn from the article is that Durbin puts the banks in a position where they have to react with changes in how they offer debit card services. And the most likely choices are consumer fees for debit card usage and/or reward points programs being restricted or removed. The banks know these choices will be unpopular with consumers but there’s likely to be a domino effect where once a few banks do it, many more will follow suit, leaving consumers with less and less alternatives.
Some Tips On Dealing With Durbin
The second article comes from USA Today’s Money section. Sandra Block offers some insight into Durbin that mirrors much of the insight every other article about Durbin that The Official Merchant Services Blog has reviewed. But Block offers consumers advice on how to deal with the changes that Durbin is going to bring to their wallets: “The good news: There are numerous ways to avoid these fees. Some tips …”
Block offers four basic tips for consumers to do in response to their bank’s reaction to the Durbin Amendment.
- Tip 1: Forget about interest checking accounts. Block notes that the increased cost of maintaining this type of account ($5,587 for the interest account vs. $585 for the non-interest account) isn’t worth the 0.08% interest the account offers.
- Tip 2: Set up direct deposit. Block notes that many banks offer to waive checking account fees for customers who set up direct deposit.
- Tip 3: Consider switching to a small bank or credit union. Block notes that banks and credit unions with assets lower than $10 million are exempt from the Durbin Amendment changes.
- Tip 4: Watch out for Debit Card fees. Block’s final tip is for consumers to pay close attention to their debit card fees. Many banks may not change immediately and be slower to react to Durbin so consumers should be aware of the details of their statements going forward.
The Official Merchant Services Blog keeps finding the same theme that the media is bringing up about the Durbin Amendment. Banks do not want to lose the billions of dollars that their transaction fees were bringing them prior to the swipe fee cap. So they are going to find ways to move things around to keep the revenues coming in. And many of the proposed changes are ideas that will end up being shouldered by the consumers. The demographic that this finance reform legislation was initially supposed to assist.