Blog May 28th 2024

“Fee Changes, Right Ahead!” Diving Into Spring Card Brand Releases Around the World

In April 2024, merchants around the world faced yet another set of changes to their card acceptance fees, estimated to cost them over $250 million in the U.S. alone.

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Martha Southall

Senior Manager, Global Advocacy Manager

Disclaimer: Fee increases detailed in this blog are subject to change in line with the proposed settlement for U.S. merchants released by the Eastern District of New York on March 26, 2024. See here for more information.

 

In this 3-part blog series, CMSPI’s Insights team unpacks the three Cs of payments: cost, competition, and complexity. In the first blog of the series, CMSPI’s economists address the cost conundrum by unpacking the latest updates to card acceptance fees from Cyprus to Korea.

Understanding Your Payments Costs This Spring

The payments waters are tumultuous at the best of times, but in April 2024 merchants faced yet another set of changes to their card acceptance fees. The reported updates span countries, channels, fee types, and more. In this blog, we’ll discover why the latest brand releases could see U.S. merchants paying an additional $250 million+ in annual card fees, and whether payments costs around the world will follow suit.

Fees For U.S. Merchants

CMSPI estimated that updates to card fees in October 2023 alone increased U.S. merchants’ annual costs by hundreds of millions,1 and this April brought more of the same. While the proposed settlement of March 26th offers interchange reductions, these are not yet final, and there has been no mention so far of halting the pace of rising network fees.2

For merchants wanting to understand their May invoices, there are 3 major places to look:

1. Assessment fees:

Mastercard’s assessment fees are required for the processing of all Mastercard transactions. According to recent communications from merchant acquirers,3 one such fee – the Mastercard Acquirer Brand Volume Fee – increased by 0.01% on every Mastercard sales transaction in April 2024. For U.S. merchants, the annual cost impact of this adjustment is estimated to exceed $259 million.4 Back in 2019, Visa also increased its assessment fees by 0.01% – estimated by CMSPI to increase merchants’ annual costs by $195 million at the time.5

2. Fees for commercial cards:

The introduction of Visa’s Commercial Solutions Fee in April 2024 could see merchants paying an additional 0.1% on all commercial card transactions.6 CMSPI estimates that this fee alone could add $80 million to U.S. merchants’ annual costs, with the greatest impact for sectors where business cards are common, such as travel and hospitality.

3. International fees:

While Mastercard’s Network Access Brand Usage fee previously applied to only domestic authorizations, it is now set to include non-domestic authorizations and refunds – and increased to a rate of $0.0295. The fee application refers to transactions where the merchant is in the U.S. and the customer’s card is issued outside of the U.S.7

The updates above are not the only ones merchants faced this Spring; new and revised fees for accepting Mail Order/Telephone Order transactions, inquiring about the name on an account, or attempting too many authorizations are just a few others that merchants across the country are diligently forecasting into their budgets. However, the changes to assessment fees make it unlikely that any card-accepting merchant will go unaffected.

A Global Perspective

Although the U.S. hosts the headquarters of most of the major global card brands, its merchants are not alone when it comes to the impact of card fee changes. Across the pond in Europe, for example, retailers are expecting penalty fees to increase fivefold for authorizations that cannot be matched to a cleared transaction (and vice versa) within a defined timeframe.8 The picture becomes even more complex at the national level, with 2024 already having brought increases to service fees in Italy in January, and volume fees in Cyprus and Malta set to follow suit in July.

Those with Asia-Pacific operations are also facing adjustments. Visa’s Digital Commerce Fee of 0.0075%, for example, is set to apply to Card Not Present transactions in Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, and the South Pacific from July.9 At the same time, markets including the Republic of Korea, China, and Singapore saw the introduction of Mastercard’s Authorization Process Fee in May.10 Just as in the European case, country-specific changes (including decreases to several domestic interchange rates in Australia,11 and the recent introduction of Mastercard’s Authorization Optimizer service in Japan) can make global reconciliation challenging for merchants and processors.

“Is There Anything I Can Do?”

To any merchants reading with trepidation, don’t abandon ship yet!

If you’ve found this article, you’ve already started to course-correct; seeking out independent sources is crucial when understanding the impact of card brand updates, and positive relationships with trade associations, advisors and your payments partners will be invaluable at this stage.

The next step is analyzing the application of each change directly to your transaction data, incorporating growth forecasts and mitigation strategies into your estimates of impact potential. These can help in determining the ROI of optimization strategies such as routing via alternative networks and introducing non-card payment methods and may even reveal a rate that has been misapplied for years.

CMSPI has assisted hundreds of the world’s largest merchants with market-wide insights and rich datasets. That’s how we know that beyond the practicalities of budgeting lies a fundamental need for collaboration between merchants industry stakeholders and trade groups to advocate for fair and transparent fee structures that balance the interests of all stakeholders.

Until then, and especially this Spring, it’s all hands on deck.

See what Smarter Payments Intelligence can do for you.

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