By Dennis Lane
May 2, 2017 at 5:00 am ET
Every year there’s a lot of talk in Congress and on the campaign trail about helping small businesses. However, too often, small business owners like me don’t see a lot of impact from all of Congress’ blustery talk. But in 2010, Republicans and Democrats actually came together and put small businesses ahead of big banks in passing debit card swipe fee reform.
I’ve owned and operated a 7-Eleven franchise in Quincy, Mass., for more than 40 years. Before 2010, I had never shared my voice, my story and my experience with my elected officials in Washington. But when Congress was considering a measure that would finally cap the astronomical rates big banks were charging small businesses like mine on every single debit card transaction, I knew I had to speak up.
Debit card swipe fees – the percentage of the purchase price that banks charge retailers and ultimately consumers to process a debit card transaction – had ballooned to my second-highest expense after paying my employees. Over the past 10 years, I had seen big banks make $50 billion a year on swipe fees, a 300 percent growth. Especially on small purchases of drinks and snacks – 7-Eleven’s specialty – Visa and MasterCard were making more off of my business than I was.
As a result of out of control debit card swipe fees, I had to consider raising prices on goods, just to pay the big banks.
I came to Washington in 2010 to tell my story and explain how debit card swipe fees hurt my business. And Congress listened.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sponsored an amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill that empowered the Federal Reserve to cap debit card swipe fees charged by the biggest banks so they are “reasonable and proportional” to the actual cost of the transaction. Both Republicans and Democrats came together, and the Durbin amendment was adopted.
Since debit card swipe fee reform has gone into effect, the average swipe fee for a debit card transaction has gone from 43 cents to 24 cents. Retailers across the country saved $8.5 billion just in the first year of reforms – $5.8 billion of which was passed on to consumers. Putting these savings back into the economy has supported 37,000 jobs, and cut back on the already huge profits of Wall Street banks.
For me, these savings have allowed me to keep prices on goods low and hire and retain more workers. My 7-Eleven in Quincy has never been stronger.
But now, having seen their profits from swipe fees decline, the big banks are fighting to repeal swipe fee reform and pushing their allies in Congress to do their bidding. This week, big banks and their allies are pushing the House Financial Services Committee to take small business owners like me back to a time when Wall Street charged us as high of a rate as they want on each and every debit card transaction.
Repealing debit card swipe fee reform would drive up costs for small businesses in every community and ultimately drive up costs for consumers for each debit card transaction they make.
Small businesses like mine need Congress to once again stand up to the big banks and put us first. Debit card swipe fee reform put real savings back in the hands of retailers and consumers instead of more profits in the pockets of big banks. We must protect it.
I am asking that Congress once again support every Main Street American Retailer, every coffee shop, convenience store, bakery, dry cleaner and all of us who hire from within our neighborhoods and support our communities. Small business is the backbone of the American economy.
Dennis Lane has owned and operated a 7-Eleven in Quincy, Mass., for more than 40 years.
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