The “Data Usage Fee” is an assessment charge Discover imposes when you accept Discover cards at your business.
However, processors may or may not charge it, and may or may not list it as the “data usage fee.”
- What are assessment fees?
- Data Usage Fee
- Paying the Data Usage Fee
- Can I lower or avoid the Data Usage Fee?
What are assessment fees?
Assessment fees are a component of credit card processing costs. Unlike interchange fees (which go to the banks that issue credit cards to consumers) assessments are charged by and paid to the card brands themselves. Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express all have their own assessment fees. You can view the full list on our page about credit card processing assessments.
Processors pass on interchange fees to businesses, including the Data Usage Fee.
Data Usage Fee
The Data Usage Fee is one of several assessment fees you’ll pay for accepting Discover cards. As of 2018, Discover sets the Data Usage Fee at $0.0195. It applies to all US-based authorization transactions with a Discover card.
Note that as an assessment charge, the Data Usage Fee is non-negotiable. No processor can lower your cost of assessment fees, though they can decide not to pass them to you.
Paying the Data Usage Fee
No matter which credit card processor you use, you’ll pay assessment fees. However, not every processor lists or charges the Data Usage Fee.
As with all assessment charges, you may or may not see the fee listed on your processing statement. Whether it’s listed depends on the pricing model your credit card processor uses to charge you processing fees. With an interchange plus or tiered pricing model, you will typically see the fee listed. Interchange plus pricing statements are more detailed and show assessments. The fee would be listed in the Discover section of your charges. With a flat rate credit card processor, you will not usually see assessments listed individually.
The Data Usage Fee can be charged alongside the Discover Network Authorization Fee. You may see one or both fees on your statement. In the example snippet below, both the Data Usage Fee and Network Authorization Fee are passed at cost, but the Data Usage Fee is labeled as the “Network Fee.”
As we can see, the “Network Fee” is charged at the “Data Usage Fee” rate of $0.0195.
While the Data Usage Fee and the Network Authorization Fee can be charged on the same transaction, they don’t have to be. If only one fee is listed on your statement, it’s more likely to be the Data Usage Fee. In the snippet below, the Data Usage Fee is charged, while the Network Authorization Fee is not.
In this statement, the Data Usage Fee is listed with other Discover fees, but the Network Authorization Fee is not present.
Interchange Plus Pricing
On an interchange plus or tiered pricing model, your goal is to have the fee charged to you at Discover’s set rate. However, there’s no requirement for processors to do that, and they could charge you a higher amount, essentially adding a markup. To determine if you’re being charged Discover’s rate, you would need to multiply the number of Discover transactions you processed by the Data Usage Fee rate noted above.
Keep in mind that with tiered pricing, the processor typically does not include assessments when they quote your “rates” for processing, which means your overall costs will be higher than they look. When shopping for or switching processors, remember not to use “rates” as your comparison. Read more about why you shouldn’t shop based on best credit card processor rates.
If you want to check what you’re being charged for this assessment, you’ll need to locate the Data Usage Fee on your statement (if available) and do the math. The image below shows three examples of how the fee may be listed when it’s called the Data Usage Fee. As you can see, some processors abbreviate “Discover” while others spell it out completely. You’ll notice that the fee is being passed at the correct amount ($0.0195) on all three statements. If your statement shows a higher amount for that rate, it’s possible you’re being charged a markup over Discover’s cost.
Note that since the Data Usage Fee isn’t a percentage, it isn’t calculated on the total amount of Discover transactions. Instead, it’s charged on the number of transations. To check the math, you would need to multiply the number of transactions by the rate. In the statements below, the number of transactions is listed directly to the left of the rate: 2, 29, and 2.
If you’re a CardFellow client, we’ve got you covered. We don’t allow tiered pricing and we require processors to pass assessments to you at true cost with no added markup. But just to make sure, we check assessment costs for you on your free statement reviews. If you have questions about your assessment charges, please contact us.
Flat Rate Pricing
Flat rate pricing (where a processor charges you one flat rate, such as 2.75% or 2.9% + 30 cents) is less transparent about assessments than other pricing models. You’re still paying assessments – you just don’t see which ones or how much you’re being charged. Flat rate pricing looks simple, but you often pay for that simplicity through higher costs.
If you’re on flat rate pricing and take more than a few thousand dollars/month in credit cards, it’s worth your time to see if a competitive interchange plus processor can save you money. Try CardFellow’s free processor comparison tool to see no-obligation quotes.
Can I lower or avoid the Data Usage Fee?
No, it’s not possible to lower the Data Usage Fee. Since the fee is set by Discover, processors are not able to offer you lower costs on any assessments, including the Data Usage Fee. The only option to avoid it is to not accept Discover cards at your business.
I own a business in the state of Texas and want to know the legality of passing along or marking up credit card costs to customers. A company from Florida wants to set me up where every transaction will have a $2.00 cost added to it. Example: A $12.00 transaction plus $2.00 would be a $14.00 charge to the customer but I get the $12.00 and this company keeps the $2.00. I don’t pay any additional fees. Is this legal?
Texas businesses are not allowed to surcharge credit card transactions, and even in states that permit it, it must be the actual cost of processing with a maximum of 4%, not a flat amount. Discounts can be offered for cash payments, though. Here’s more information on surcharges: https://www.cardfellow.com/blog/checkout-fees-charging-credit-card-fees-to-customers/
Automatic cash discount programs are becoming more popular, but there are still fees involved typically, including monthly fees and the costs of accepting debit cards.