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MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc. plan to introduce new acquirer fees as part of card brands' new interchange-rate schedules, CardLine has learned. According to documents one acquirer is providing its sales agents, MasterCard will collect a 1.85-cent network-access and brand-usage fee per transaction beginning April 18, while Visa will charge 1.95 cents per Visa transaction as a U.S. acquirer-processing fee beginning July 1, including for non-U.S. issued Visa cards used in the United States. Both brands previously did not charge such fees. MasterCard will lower its acquirer-access fee from 0.65 cents per authorization to 0.15 cents. . One acquirer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says the new fees puts acquirers in a "quandary." Will acquirers pass the fees along or absorb them, he asks. "It will definitely impact everyone," he says. He speculates that merchants with small average tickets will be most affected, as these transactions are "very price sensitive," he says. While he says the timing of the new MasterCard fee is certain, there are some "rumors" that Visa's new fee is less certain. MasterCard also will introduce a new interchange tier called "high value," which imposes a larger rate than some other tiers. For example, the high value restaurant interchange rate will be 1.73% of the sale plus 10 cents, which compares with the CPS restaurant rate of 1.54% plus 10 cents. MasterCard does not define high value, but it appears to be related to a type of rewards card judging from the April 2009 interchange schedule. MasterCard has posted the April 2009 rate schedule to its Web site. Visa has not yet released its revised rate schedule. The card brands typically update their interchange rates twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Each company declined to comment specifically about the changes, but each issued statements. Visa says it "regularly reviews its pricing, as any business would, and makes adjustments where appropriate depending on such factors as the value delivered to clients and the need to be competitive." MasterCard says it does not comment on pricing adjustments "until the impact flows through our financial statements." Interchange makes up part of the discount rate merchants pay acquirers that also includes processor and acquirer fees.

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