Senate Approves Debit-Card Swipe-Fee Limits in Bill

U.S. Senate lawmakers handed a victory to retailers over the issue of so-called “swipe fees” for card transactions Thursday evening (yesterday), as antibank fervor continued to play a heavy role in shaping broader regulatory overhaul legislation. Senators voted 64-33 in favor of a measure offered by Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) that would allow the Federal Reserve to regulate fees on debit card transactions, as well as allow retailers more leverage in negotiating with credit card firms and banks over the fees for card transactions. Nearly 20 Republicans voted to support the measure. The vote sent card companies falling, with Visa Inc. (V) down 7.9% to $79 and Mastercard Inc. (MA) down 7.3% to $215.30, and with Discover Financial Services (DFS) of 2.8% to $14.37 and Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) down 2.6% to $43.75.

BIG CHANGE

The amendment permits retailers to offer discounts for cash, checks or debit cards, or for a particular card brand, and would let merchants set minimums and maximums for credit-card purchases, a practice that is currently against card association rules.