Although some credit unions believe that the one-third interchange cut for signature debit transactions would remain in place, industry executives say the a new interchange rate for signature debit is being negotiated now and will go into effect after Jan. 1, 2004. The 33% rate cut in the interchange rate immediately after the settlement was part of the agreement to settle the case, one executive explained. It was one part of the compensation packages that the card associations offered the retailers. But everyone agreed that the interchange rate would be negotiated, the executives said, and many believed it is headed higher. Although no one from either VISA or MasterCard was available to comment on the interchange discussions, industry sources have speculated on how they would go. "Previously, VISA and MasterCard more or less set the interchange rate and didn't actually negotiate with anyone," explained one executive. "Now the card associations are presumably having to negotiate with the big retailers on their rates," he added. Although no one could say for sure, the executives agreed the most likely outcome would be for MasterCard and VISA to negotiate the rate for the biggest, high-volume retailers and that smaller retailers with less volume would pay a higher rate.

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