Maine, with its rugged coastline, pristine wilderness and hardworking communities, has long been a place where small businesses can thrive. However, a silent but significant issue has plagued these businesses for years: credit card “swipe fees.” As the president and chief executive of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, I’ve witnessed the impact of swipe fees on businesses throughout our state. 

Every time a customer swipes, inserts or taps a credit card, businesses pay a 2%-4% fee to the credit card company and bank. This may seem inconsequential on an individual basis, but the charges add up quickly. In 2022 alone, credit card “swipe fees” totaled $130 billion – a 20% increase compared to the year before. 

The key problem is a lack of competition in the credit card industry. Visa and Mastercard control roughly 80% of the market, a duopoly position that empowers the tag team to raise prices without fear of backlash. Without robust competition, they have little incentive to keep this “transaction tax” in check. As a result, the cost of swipe fees have more than doubled over the past 10 years. 

This is a growing problem facing businesses in the state. In fact, the credit card giants began inflating credit card fees yet again this month. The increases are expected to amount to an additional $502 million annually. These extra costs have a disproportionate negative impact on Maine’s small-business community, which is the backbone of the state economy.

Skyrocketing swipe fees are forcing our Main Street entrepreneurs to choose between absorbing the costs or passing it on to consumers through higher prices. It’s a lose-lose scenario. 

Fortunately, the Credit Card Competition Act, currently being considered in Congress, represents a ray of hope for Maine businesses struggling under the crushing weight of ballooning swipe fees. The bipartisan legislation aims to inject much-needed competition into the credit card market. 


By giving businesses more options on how to process credit card transactions, this legislation would provide businesses with the leverage to drive down swipe fees to a reasonable level that merchants, consumers and networks can stomach.

When businesses have more control over their payment processing costs, they can reinvest those savings into their operations, employees and communities – helping to strengthen the Maine economy. And this wouldn’t only benefit businesses; it’s a win for consumers too. Lower swipe fees will push consumer prices down across the board, benefiting all Maine residents. More specifically, the policy has the potential to save U.S. businesses and consumers up to $15 billion annually. 

As a former New England regional administrator for the U.S. Small Businesses Administration, I understand the importance of supporting our local economies. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, and we cannot afford to ignore the burden of swipe fees any longer. The Credit Card Competition Act implements a clever free market mechanism that levels the playing field, increases competition and gives Maine businesses the relief they so desperately need.

It’s time for Congress to act in the best interest of Maine’s small businesses and pass this hallmark piece of bipartisan legislation. Maine’s elected leaders in Washington should take note.

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