Small Tickets – The Durbin the Downside

Now that we've had a chance to see actual post-Durbin processing volume, data shows that most businesses save significantly on debit volume thanks to the Durbin Amendment. The only exception to this is businesses with small average tickets, or those on tiered pricing. Small ticket merchants have seen costs increase because of Durbin, and merchants on tiered pricing allow their processors to pocket their Durbin savings.

Note that processors are not allowed to quote tiered pricing at CardFellow, so any business that used CardFellow to find a processor will receive Durbin savings.

Businesses with small average tickets are an unexpected (or expected, depending on whom you ask) casualty of the Durbin Amendment.

Interchange is Complicated

The fees that businesses pay to process a credit or debit card transaction are called interchange fees. An interchange fee generally consists of a percentage and flat transaction fee, such as 1.51% plus $0.10.

Visa, MasterCard and Discover collectively have several hundred different interchange fees for their respective brands, and each determines under what circumstances a particular fee applies. Variables such as card type, card brand, processing method, and transaction amount are all considered when determining which interchange fee will apply to a particular transaction.

For example, 1.51% plus a $0.10 transaction fee is the interchange fee that applies to a swiped Visa branded consumer credit card where the transaction amount is greater than $15.

As you can see from this one example, interchange is complicated. That's probably why Senator Durbin office failed to consider the impact of his amendment on businesses with small tickets.

What the Durbin Amendment Did

Among other things, the Durbin Amendment capped the fee that businesses pay banks when they accept a debit card. The cap is 0.05% plus a flat $0.22 cent transaction fee for cards issued by banks with $10 billion or more in assets.

Unregulated banks are still free to charge pre-Durbin rates of 0.95% plus a $0.20 transaction fee for a swiped Visa debit transaction, or 1.05% plus a $0.15 transaction fee for a swiped MasterCard debit transaction.

Small Ticket Interchange Before Durbin

Visa and MasterCard want their credit and debit cards to be a competitive method of payment, and they realized that businesses with a small average ticket would be especially impacted by a $0.10 transaction fee.

So, Visa and MasterCard created special small ticket interchange fees of 1.55% plus $0.04 that apply to swiped transactions of $15 or less involving non-reward credit or debit cards.

Small Ticket Interchange After Durbin

The card brands and large issuing banks weren't too happy about having their debit interchange fees capped. So, they responded by raising regulated debit interchange fees to the cap across the board without regard to transaction size.

The result is that businesses with a small average ticket no longer get special treatment on regulated debit transactions. This is especially damaging since debit cards are used far more frequently than credit cards to pay for small transactions.

Proof in Numbers

Here's a snippet from a processing statement of a café that used CardFellow to find a credit card processing service. Since we provide free lifetime monitoring, this business sent their statements to us asking why their fees increased dramatically in October.

Take a look at the business's September processing statement. Visa and MasterCard's small ticket debit interchange categories account for the majority of volume, and the transaction fee for each is only $0.04.

Small Ticket Pre Durbin

Now, fast forward to October's statement and we see debit interchange split into regulated and unregulated categories due to Durbin. You can see that volume from debit cards issued by unregulated (small) banks is still at the special small ticket interchange, but volume for debit cards issued by regulated (large) banks is at the capped post-Durbin limit. Unfortunately, the capped rate's $0.22 transaction fee is much higher than the uncapped $0.04 fee. This difference increases processing costs substantially for small ticket merchants.

Small Ticket Post Durbin

Unregulated interchange is outlined in red, and regulated interchange is outlined in blue. Note that the actual Durbin cap is 0.05% plus a $0.21 transaction fee with an optional $0.01 incentive for banks that meet certain fraud restrictions.

The reason for the two regulated categories for MasterCard is because the merchant accepted a regulated card issued by a bank that did not meet the fraud guidelines.

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2 Responses to Small Tickets – The Durbin the Downside

  1. Aqeel says:

    So, what are the Durbin savings… all i see are the costs going up.

    • Ben says:

      Hi Aqeel,

      The Durbin Amendment has lowered costs for many businesses. You can use our Durbin Calculator to see that costs are lower for the majority of regulated transactions. The only time costs will increase is for transactions that are less than $9 (not including processor’s markup).

      This article focuses on the small ticket cost increase, not on the complete impact of Durbin across all transaction ranges.

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