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Visa Inc. says its new interchange rate for fuel purchases will be cheaper for gas-station owners, but the National Association of Convenience Stores contends the new rate will not always mean lower fees. Merchant banks pay card issuers interchange and pass the expense along to their merchant customers as part of the discount rate. Visa will maintain its current consumer debit and prepaid card interchange rate for fuel purchases at 0.7% of the sale amount plus 17 cents. But beginning July 18, Visa will cap the debit interchange fee at 95 cents per fuel purchase, the card brand announced yesterday. In October, Visa will restructure the interchange rate for fuel purchases on all of its consumer credit cards into one rate of 1.15% plus 25 cents per transaction. Currently, the interchange rate on Visa consumer credit cards ranges from 1.43% plus 10 cents for basic credit cards to 2.1% plus 10 cents for some rewards cards. "By lowering our rates, we hope to see oil companies pass these savings along to their stations and ultimately to consumers," Bill Sheedy, Visa global head of corporate strategy, said in a statement. However, the National Association of Convenience Stores is not impressed by Visa's move. "The good news is that Visa has publicly acknowledged that interchange is a problem," association spokesperson Jeff Lenard tells CardLine. "However, this public-relations stunt does nothing to address the problem that credit card companies are allowed to write the (card-acceptance) rules and fix prices in secret." Lenard agrees with Visa's math that the new credit card rate could save station owners interchange on fuel purchases of $60 or more. However, some purchases of less than $60 will cost station owners more under the new rate system, according to CardLine's calculations. The new credit card rate policy will amount to 94 cents in interchange for a $60 fuel purchase compared with 96 cents to $1.36 in fees for a $60 purchase under the existing rates. But for a $30 fuel purchase, the new rate will generate 60 cents in interchange compared with 53 cents to 73 cents under the existing rates.

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