SAN FRANCISCO – Visa USA has followed the lead of MasterCard and hiked some of its interchange rates, according to a January 24 letter sent to both merchants and issuers. The changes will take effect in April. MasterCard recently raised some of its interchange rates by 11%. Visa's letter said its overall interchange rate would rise only 2% but that in some categories the rates would rise by 5 to 11%. The company did not raise the rate on its signature debit card transactions. "Revenue from interchange fees permits issuers to offer consumers value-added card products at low prices," the company wrote. "Even with these rate increases, Visa remains the best option for issuers, consumers and merchants." Previous rate hikes that had included changes to the signature debit rate had drawn protests from merchants. The difference between interchange rates on signature debit and PIN-based transactions are the subject of a significant pending lawsuit.

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