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Store owners hope Congress keeps cap on debit card swipe fees


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s convenience store owners will be watching the outcome of a vote in Washington, D.C. that could affect one of their largest costs of doing business.

Swipe fees — charged by a bank when a customer uses a debit card to make a purchase — are the second-largest cost of doing business for convenience stores, larger than even health care costs, says Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association.

The House of Representatives Financial Services Committee is scheduled to vote on the Financial CHOICE Act, an overhaul of Dodd-Frank legislation that was enacted in 2010 to reduce the excesses of Wall Street banks.

Dodd-Frank limits how much banks can collect from retailers when customers pay with debit cards instead of cash. The Financial CHOICE Act, being pushed by committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, would remove that cap.

Vineyard said there are times, such as when a person buys a small item, the store owner would be better off giving it to the customer for free rather than paying the associated swipe fee to the bank.

The swipe fee is a combination of a flat fee and a percentage of the purchase, Vineyard said. She did not have figures on how much swipe fees cost convenience stores in West Virginia, but the total cost nationally is about $6 billion a year, she said.

Nationally, banks have come out in favor of removing the cap of swipe fees while retailers oppose it.

U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., is a member of the Financial Services Committee. Vineyard said she has been in contact with his office about swipe fees and Mooney is hoping for a compromise.

“I was told there will not be a compromise. We’ll have to get it done on the floor if it does not get done in committee,” she said.

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