Hey Congress: Don’t change Interchange

[UPDATE: The fight for Interchange has taken a quacky turn. Check out our response to American Family Voices lobbying efforts.]

The Financial Reform Bill is making its way through Congress, and one amendment – the Interchange Amendment – will make it more expensive and more difficult for credit unions like us to have a debit card program. In the end, you will end up paying more.

We highlighting this fight a few months ago, but now the Financial Reform Bill is getting closer to a vote.

What is Interchange? Interchange is the amount that merchants pay to debit card issuers, like American 1, to maintain our debit system. Interchange pays for security, fraud prevention, upkeep on the system, and more. The Interchange Amendment, however, will reduce the amount of Interchange we receive for each debit payment – meaning we could have to start charging our members to have a debit card.

This is bad for everyone. For one, debit issuers like us assume all the risk for debit card programs. Merchants are paid immediately, but American 1 has to worry about processing all that information. Interchange pays for that upkeep.

Two, merchants claim a lower Interchange will save consumers money. But when was the last time a store dropped their prices or saved you money? They’ll charge the same prices and pocket the rest (as they did in Australia), leaving members to pick up the tab. Or demand cash for each transaction.

Three, merchants could decline smaller debit issuers, like American 1, in favor of big issuers like Bank of America. And we all know big banks like BoA don’t have a friendly card program. But our members may have no other choice if their American 1 debit card is denied at big stores like Walmart, Target, and Home Depot.

All this is why we’re calling Congress and telling them to drop the Interchange Amendment to the Financial Reform Bill. American 1 can’t afford to have a great debit card program without a reasonable Interchange income. The amendment takes away that reasonable income.

To help, CUNA has set up a toll-free hotline to help connect you with your representative in Congress:

(877) 223-5275

Simply dial in your ZIP code and the hotline will direct you to your representative. Leave them a strongly-worded message that you would like them to drop the Interchange Amendment in the Financial Reform Bill. If you’re not sure of what to say to your representative (or their voice mailbox), use our handy script and let your voice be heard.

For more information, here are a few articles:

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