NEW YORK – Wire services reported on December 3 that Wal-Mart has said, as of February 1, 2004, it will stop accepting MasterCard’s debit product in which a cardholder validates their transactions with a signature because the fees are too high. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer and was the lead plaintiff in a suit between the retailers and the major card associations over the associations’ requirement that retailers accept Visa and MasterCard’s debit product if they accepted the credit card. As part of the settlement of that case, the associations cut the interchange rates on their debit products by a third for the balance of this year and are negotiating new rates for 2004. It is possible that this Wal-Mart move might be part of those ongoing negotiations. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa Berryhill told wire services that the retailer “would certainly consider any proposal” from MasterCard to lower its transaction fees, but declined to comment on any discussions or negotiations with MasterCard. Wal-Mart said customers who use the MasterCard signature debit card will still be able to use that card with a personal identification number. The company also will continue to accept MasterCard credit cards, and the company noted that since MasterCard signature debit cards are tied to a bank account, customers have the option of writing a check. Wal-Mart acknowledged that checks often cost more for it to process than it might pay in debit interchange.

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