CUNA and NAFCU expressed a measure of relief about an anti-trust credit card settlement that could have an impact on the profitability of credit union credit card programs.
Under the terms of the settlement, Visa and MasterCard along with some of the biggest card issuers will pay retailers a total of roughly $8.25 billion. The settlement also allows for retailers to surcharge, with certain restrictions, consumers who choose to pay with credit cards.
Credit unions were not directly involved in the settlement, but have been members of different payment industry coalitions which have formed to protect credit and debit card interchange and which have had input into the settlement.
CUNA CEO Bill Cheney emphasized that the settlement ends a long-standing dispute in the payment industry.
“Importantly, this settlement means the issues in this case are now closed, once and for all. Even though consumer-owned credit unions were not part of the lawsuit, the settlement announced today affects all credit unions with credit card programs,” Cheney said.
“We all know that interchange revenue enables credit unions to provide essential and cost-effective credit card services to their consumer members. We also know that the temporary reduction in interchange revenue that credit unions will experience will not likely find its way into the pockets of consumers, but will more likely into those of merchants. Consumers win nothing in this settlement,” he said.
NAFCU was a little more pessimistic.
“It's a shame that once again consumers stand to see their wallets shrink with the risk of new check-out fees, instead of the once-promised price cuts, as the big-box retailers continue to get richer, said NAFCU CEO Fred Becker, adding, “We continue to monitor developments for any potential ramifications on credit unions.”
Meanwhile, industry analysts largely have said it is too early to know how the settlement will impact the use of cards and thus credit union card income. First, many estimate that getting the details to the settlement worked out could take between eight months and a year.
Second, it’s unclear how many retailers will really surcharge credit cards, particularly since researchers have found consumers tend to spend more when they pay by card than when they pay by cash.