Retailers Hot Over Credit Card Fees, Even After Settlement Checks Arrive

Credit card interchange fees made headlines again this month, with retailers railing against the cost of accepting plastic. Although most merchant agreements prevent retailers from adding processing fees for credit card purchases, business owners often retain the right to offer special discounts for customers who pay in cash. Diane Chung, a restaurant owner profiled by the Boston Globe, launched a weekly promotion offering customers half price sushi if they use cash instead of credit cards. Independently-owned retail stores and restaurants have challenged fee structures can can sap profits on small purchases.

Meanwhile, Visa and MasterCard surprised long-time retailers by opting for an early payout of a 2003 settlement related to interchange fees. By paying a lump sum now instead of completing an installment plan through 2012, the payment platform operators can put accusations of interchange fee price fixing behind them. Checks from the settlement have been welcomed by retailers, who can use extra revenue to offset this year's slow holiday season.