The Trouble With Debit Cards

The NY Times discusses the problems caused by rewards earning credit/debit cards for merchants and consumers alike. Visa, and to a lesser extent Mastercard, come off looking like health insurance companies. Entities who don’t add significant value to the economy, but manage to skim huge profits and act as a burden anyway. One solution:

Life might be simpler and more efficient if retailers could levy a surcharge that covers their costs to accept cards and let consumers figure out whether to pay it. But the card companies don’t allow that, and Congress hasn’t yet forced their hand, though this is now how things work in Australia (where some retailers charge excessive fees, alas).

And from a few days earlier, here is the Times talking about why the fees are so high.

The banks have used interchange fees as a growing profit center and to pay for cardholder perks like rewards programs. Interchange revenue has increased to $45 billion today, from $20 billion in 2002, driven in part by the surge in debit card use.

The Trouble With Debit Cards