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Bid in Senate to delay debit card 'swipe' fees falls short

Retailers, gas stations, restaurateurs and other businesses that regularly receive payment through customer debit cards won the day in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, with opponents of caps on debit card swipe fees falling short of votes needed to delay implementation of the caps for two years.

The Senate vote lets the Federal Reserve limit to 12 cents the “interchange” fee banks can charge merchants each time a customer swipes a debit card. Fees now average about 44 cents for each swipe.

The cap is to go into effect July 21.

Banks earn about $16 billion a year from the fees, according to the Federal Reserve. Banks say they will have to raise other fees charged to customers to offset the lost revenue.

Merchants, on the other hand, say they higher costs for products, especially gasoline and energy, are battering their bottom lines. The lower fees will help them survive in a tough economy, retailers say.

A bi-partisan coalition of Senators who wanted to block the fee caps needed 60 votes to prevail. But Wednesday’s vote was 54-45 – six short of 60, The Associated Press reported.

Ted |Carter/MBJ Staff

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