STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And in this country the Federal Reserve has handed down a final rule on the contentious issue of swipe fees. Those are the fees that merchants pay every time you use a debit card to buy something.
Starting in October, banks will not be able to charge stores as much as in the past.
NPR's Tamara Keith reports.
TAMARA KEITH: For years, retailers have been complaining about the fees banks charge whenever someone pays by card. Last year, Congress listened and included an amendment in the big financial overhaul to limit fees on debit transactions.
In December, the Fed came out with a preliminary rule that raised howls from banks and credit unions, and thus began a six month lobbying bonanza that included 11,000 public comments, numerous TV and radio ads, social media campaigns, petition drives and efforts to get Congress to intervene. The result, a revised final rule limiting fees to about 21 cents per transaction, plus a few cents for other things like fraud prevention. That's just about half of what banks are now charging but it's still a victory, says Bill Cheney, president of the Credit Union National Association.
Mr. BILL CHENEY (Credit Union National Association): It's obvious that the Fed listened to the concerns of credit unions and other small issuers. We feel better about the 21 cents than we did about the 12, that's for sure.
KEITH: Twelve cents per transaction is what the Fed had originally proposed and retailers were pretty happy with that. Now?
Ms. TITA FREEMAN (National Retail Federation): We are deeply disappointed with this result.
KEITH: Tita Freeman is with the National Retail Federation.
Ms. FREEMAN: Clearly they bowed to pressure, significant pressure from the banks, and watered down the end rule.
KEITH: Still, under that final rule banks will be losing about 40 percent of their revenue from debit cards - billions of dollars. It remains an open question whether consumers will notice a difference at all. What's certain is the lobbying and wrangling isn't done. There's too much money on the line.
Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.
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