Restaurants Fight Back Over Credit-Card Fees

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Debit or credit may mean the difference of a couple dollars. Photo: iStockPhoto

Since dinner out can often top $100 for two people, it's not surprising that most customers demand restaurants take credit cards. Restaurants, of course, are obliging, but that means credit-card companies can charge ever-higher fees, for which restaurants must bear the burden. Now the National Restaurant Association is lobbying Congress to get those fees lowered, much the way debit-card processing fees have already been capped under the Dodd-Frank Act. They've posted this fee calculator for restaurant owners so they can figure out just how pricey all this is — even small restaurants are likely paying tens of thousands a year in fees alone — with the hope that they'll make more noise. But barring any immediate changes at the federal level, restaurant customers in 40 states may soon start seeing those processing fees passed on to them as a line item on their bill.

A $7.25 billion settlement last July resulted in merchants being able to charge credit-card (but not debit-card) users a fee for swiping their card, thereby passing along what has long been an expense the merchant has had to swallow. Such surcharges are likely to result in a backlash from consumers, especially in the economically sensitive restaurant sector, so it remains to be seen whether this will actually become a trend.

In any event, something is going to give, because card processors have for too long been profiting off a simple, electronic act that is now part of everyone's daily lives. And, as HuffPo suggests, when a company like Starbucks decides to move toward alternative payment and processing systems like Square, the big processing companies are going to sit up and listen.

Credit Cards And Restaurants: Industries Mull 'Cashless' Dining Consequences [HuffPo]
Related: Starbucks: Square Mobile Payments Will Now Be Accepted At Coffee Chain [HuffPo]
Be Aware: Credit Card Purchases May Soon Carry a Surcharge [Forbes]