Credit card perks, surcharges to fall under new RBA rules

Credit card perks, surcharges to fall under new RBA rules


The RBA on Thursday said it would cap the fees banks received from credit card companies when transactions occurred. Photo: Greg Newington

The RBA on Thursday said it would cap the fees banks received from credit card companies when transactions occurred. Photo: Greg Newington

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Shoppers can expect less generous reward schemes but fewer sky-high surcharges for paying by credit card under changes starting from September.

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Shoppers can expect less generous reward schemes but fewer sky-high surcharges for paying by credit card under changes starting from September.

Airlines in particular are likely to be affected, as the new rules will limit businesses to charging customers a percentage of the purchase price, rather than a fixed fee, when they pay by credit card.

In other changes that will affect premium credit cards particularly, the Reserve Bank of Australia on Thursday said it would cap the fees banks received from credit card companies when transactions occurred.

Known as "interchange fees", these will be capped at 0.8 per cent of a purchase price from July next year. That compares with some interchange fees as high as 2 per cent today. The rules, which had been flagged by the RBA in December, will also impose caps on interchange fees for American Express cards issued by banks as "companion cards" to Visa and MasterCards.

Previously these cards had not been subject to regulation on interchange fees, but they will now be included in the 0.8 per cent cap.

The cap will lower how much revenue the banks receive from interchange fees, especially from the "premium" cards such as Amex companion cards. Cards issued by Amex directly will not be affected.

Canstar analyst James Slack said that would probably mean banks would cut the value of their reward schemes, something several lenders have already done in recent months.

"It will reduce the revenue banks get from these cards, and they will then pass that on," Mr Slack said.

Country manager at MasterCard, Andrew Cartwright, said millions of Australians held rewards cards with status of "platinum" or higher, and they were likely to be affected by the change.

"The cost of these changes to the banks will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars," he said.

Lenders including ANZ Bank and Commonwealth Bank have cut the value of various types of credit card rewards this year, and banks might also try to claw back lost revenue through higher fees or interest rates on premium cards.

At the same time, from September, large businesses will face tougher rules on the size of the surcharges they can impose on customers who pay on credit.

Businesses will be banned from charging more than they are paying external providers for accepting credit cards, and surcharges must be expressed as a percentage, not a flat fee.

Qantas currently charges customers $7 for domestic travellers paying on credit, while Virgin Australia charges a flat $7.70 "booking and service" fee, which includes its cost for accepting credit cards.

The government has previously said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would be responsible for enforcing the surcharging rules.

Consumer groups including Choice have backed the caps on interchange fees, which the RBA says will benefit the economy as a whole, however, because they will lower the cost of accepting credit card payments for merchants.

Businesses should ultimately pass these cost savings on to customers, the RBA says.

The changes are also intended to lower the cross-subsidy for shoppers who use premium credit cards from other consumers who pay using other payment methods

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/credit-card-perks-surcharges-to-fall-under-new-rba-rules-20160526-gp4gmn.html#ixzz49obMXHHe

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