Retailers celebrate swipe fee vote

As it stands, new regulations on what banks can charge per debit-card transaction are set to go into effect on July 21. Under the Federal Reserve’s current proposal, banks with $10 billion or more in assets would likely be able to charge no more than 12 cents per transaction, down from a current average of 44 cents.

A Senate vote to delay those regulations for a year, spearheaded by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), fell six votes short of the necessary 60 on Wednesday.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the driving force behind the push to make debit-card fees “reasonable and proportional,” and the retail industry said the vote’s failure was a victory for the consumer and small businesses.

But the banking industry, credit unions and their allies said that banks might have to do away with free checking and other amenities to make up for lost debit-card profits. Proponents of delaying the rules and studying them further have also said that banks with less than $10 billion in assets, while exempt from the rules, could still be hurt by the regulations.

On Thursday, Lane also urged his fellow small-business owners to prove the Senate had made the right choice by reinvesting the profits that would have otherwise gone to pay swipe fees. 

“We cannot put the money in our pockets and run. We can’t give ourselves a pay raise,” Lane said. “We need to reinvest that money in our communities by hiring more people, by lowering our prices.”