Home News Visa, Mastercard Agree To Lower Swipe Fees To Settle Nearly 20-Year-Old Lawsuit

Visa, Mastercard Agree To Lower Swipe Fees To Settle Nearly 20-Year-Old Lawsuit

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Key Takeaways

  • Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. on Tuesday announced a settlement to a longstanding legal battle over interchange fees, commonly referred to as swipe fees.
  • The fees are what credit card issuers charge and businesses pay—often between 1% to 2%— when someone uses a credit or debit card to buy something.
  • A 2005 lawsuit claimed Visa and Mastercard charged unnecessarily high swipe fees, and this settlement would resolve the suit if it is approved in court.
  • Visa and Mastercard have said the fees are for the liability they take on by giving credit to the person making the purchase, and the time gap it takes for them to be paid back.

Visa Inc. (V) and Mastercard Inc. (MA) agreed to a settlement in a longstanding lawsuit that would lower the fees businesses pay to complete credit card transactions, and cap them from being raised until 2030.

In addition to lowering interchange fees and preventing them from being raised, the settlement also would allow businesses to have more ability to steer customers to preferred payment methods and “optionality” around surcharges, the companies said Tuesday.

Interchange fees, also commonly called swipe fees, are the fees that credit card-issuing companies like Visa and Mastercard charge to a business to complete a transaction, in exchange for the credit risk they take in issuing the card and the cost of executing the transaction.

The agreement announced Tuesday, if approved in court, would settle a lawsuit that began in 2005, when businesses accused Visa and Mastercard of violating antitrust laws by charging unnecessarily high swipe fees. The businesses said the fees harmed their bottom lines as credit cards grew to be expected to be taken as a form of payment.

Estimates put Visa, Mastercard, and Discover‘s swipe fees around 2% of purchase price, on average. The companies have said that while businesses argue those fees are high, they are justified because of the gap between the business being paid instantly, and when credit card companies are paid back, often a month or more later.

“This agreement brings closure to a long-standing dispute by delivering substantial certainty and value to business owners, including flexibility in how they manage acceptance of card programs,” Mastercard Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel Rob Beard said in a statement.

Visa and Mastercard shares were up 0.3% and about 0.5%, respectively, at 12:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

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