June 8, 2011

Senate clears Fed to cap
debit card swipe fees

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted today to let the Federal Reserve slice the fees that stores must pay banks each time a customer swipes a debit card, handing merchants a victory over banks in a lobbying battle over billions in revenue.

click image to enlarge

A customer swipes a debit card at checkout at a shop in Seattle.


Senators supporting the financial institutions' efforts to head off the proposal fell six voters short of the 60 needed to prevail. The vote was 54-45.

The tally also was a triumph Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader who had muscled a provision into last year's financial overhaul law requiring the Fed to offer a plan for limiting the fees.

Those charges now average 44 cents per transaction and mean $16 billion annually for banks and credit card companies, according to Federal Reserve data.

The Fed has proposed holding those fees to a maximum of 12 cents per swipe. By law a final rule must take effect on July 21. While it might still be changed, few expect it to differ dramatically from the current proposal.

Thirty-five Democrats and 19 Republicans voted to delay the Fed's plan. Voting to let the rules take effect were 32 Democrats, a Democratic-leaning independent and 12 Republicans. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., did not vote.

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