By: Leslie G. Sarasin, President and CEO, Food Marketing Institute

Unfair Swipe Fees

Each of us would like to be able to predict what we can expect during the first 100 days of a Trump administration, but in the midst of this speculation, there is one issue food retailers must ensure doesn’t get lost in the media frenzy. When the Senate and House reconvene in January, among the legislative items anticipated to receive a floor vote will be an attempt to eliminate the big bank oversight put in place by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed in 2010. At stake in the consideration of the Financial CHOICE Act - Representative Jeb Hensarling’s legislation intended to repeal and replace Dodd-Frank - would be the loss of debit swipe fee reform established by the Durbin Amendment to Dodd-Frank. Led by FMI's legislative team, our industry fought hard for this reform and if our work is negated, once again big banks will be granted open season on setting debit card swipe fees and anti-competitive terms.

As the food retail industry knows so well, we are well on our way into the reality of being a cashless society, with nearly 80 percent of financial transactions in the U.S. now being conducted with credit or debit cards. Banks and credit card companies applaud this transition as they have managed to convert that system into the best kind of profit center -- one for which consumers generally are not even aware they are paying. It costs Americans and business owners between 23 cents and $4 every time a credit card or debit card is used to make a payment. This is a high fee for a service that actually costs the banks very little, and the banks have very successfully hidden what those fees are, and who exactly assesses them. In short, this means that each time customers use their credit card or debit card this season, they unintentionally will be giving the banks and credit card companies a secret Christmas gift. My hunch is that even the most benevolent of your customers would prefer not to be gifting big banks. To address this, we need your help, as well as that of your customers, in making sure the debit reforms are not repealed as they are the only measure we have in place to keep the control by financial institutions in check. 

FMI has just launched a website that in very simple terms begins to shine a light on the swipe fees practices of big banks and credit card companies. On the website, we ask consumers to join our grassroots efforts to keep credit and debit card fees in check by signing the petition found on the Citizens Against Unfair Swipe Fees website. Any help you can lend in raising consumer awareness and directing traffic to the website would be greatly appreciated. The website can be accessed at

Americans pay the highest swipe fees in the world and this is one arena in which I am reasonably sure we do not wish to remain number one. This year, let’s be aware and intentional about who receives our holiday gifts.