Merchants are waiting for the other shoe to drop. That would be the delayed—but still planned for April—interchange fee bump from Visa and Mastercard on some credit card transactions. The shift in consumer buying preferences driven by the pandemic is causing the most merchant angst, given that most are trying to recover from major financial losses because of Covid-19.
Consumers are shopping more online which carries higher interchange due to more fraud risk associated with card-not-present transactions. Further, many shoppers and diners are paying with credit cards not only for loyalty points, but also to avoid exchanging currency and coins in this time of social distancing. Card networks continue to provide merchants with many value-added services, but this will not resolve their continuing adversarial relationship that exists across the payments landscape.
The following excerpt from a Wall St. Journal article reports more on the topic:
Visa and Mastercard are planning to raise swipe fees for some types of credit-card purchases in April, adding to the squeeze felt by restaurants, retailers and other merchants already struggling through the Covid-19 pandemic. What’s more, customers’ switch to online shopping during the pandemic—a trend heralded for keeping businesses afloat when people are reluctant to venture inside stores—is also creating extra costs for merchants.
Swipe fees, which merchants pay when a customer pays by card, are often higher on online purchases. Card-industry executives say interchange fees help cover costs for important functions such as innovation and preventing fraud. Fraudulent online card transactions, which can result in more costs for merchants, jumped last year, according to industry data.
While total retail sales, excluding cars and gasoline, increased 0.3% from March 2020 through January from the same period a year earlier, online sales increased 57%, according to Mastercard’s SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all payment forms.
Overview by Raymond Pucci, Director, Merchant Services at Mercator Advisory Group