By Jared Levy, Editor, WaveStrength Options Weekly
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Some of you may have heard of the "Durbin Rule" -- it's imbedded in the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill.The rule essentially states that "interchange fees," those fees that retails incur anytime you swipe a credit or debit card, are to be limited (fixed) to 12 cents per transaction (the average is 44 cents). It means retailers will be capped in the amount they have to pay in merchant fees that are charged by banks and by Visa, MasterCard, etc. Good news for retailers and bad for banks and our friends over at Visa and MasterCard. This rule equates to BILLIONS of dollars annually!Our genius politicians thought this legislation would benefit the consumer because the retailers would lower prices because of their savings. This may be true in some cases, but there are serious flaws.If this is implemented in its current form, big banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase will lose billions of dollars in revenue, as will Visa and MC. What's worse is that the bill excludes smaller banks (which was meant to help them), but if small banks continue to charge high fees and the large banks are forced to do it cheaper, the small banks will lose business.All the banks are waging war on Capitol Hill to get this rule overturned or, more realistically, modified, which I believe will happen.Our angle is that the markets have NOT priced in a good outcome for MasterCard, but I believe a compromise will come about, because the rule as it stands now just doesn't work -- this will be beneficial for MA.
- Higher ATM fees -- JPMorgan Chase (JPM:NYSE) and other banks are "testing" $5 ATM fees. You think $1 or $2 is too much to pay? (I do.) How about a 300% increase in the average fee to withdrawal your money? Remember, that is a "fixed" fee at most ATMs.
- No more rewards -- Wells Fargo announced on Tuesday that it will no longer be offering debit card rewards. Say goodbye to frequent flyer miles and gift certificates. Chase and PNC are following suit.
- Higher minimum payments and balance levels -- For those of you who carry credit card balances, you may have noticed that your minimum payments have increased over the past year. You may also see that the breakpoints for "no fee" checking and savings accounts have increased.
- Increase in annual fees for credit cards -- These increases started with the "CARD" act, which went into effect in early 2010. Chances are that if we see the Durbin rule passed as written, you can expect more of the same. Fees have gone up across the board at many banks. Make sure you check your statements and disclosures. By the way, you can contest some fee increases that are initiated after you have an active account, so always keep a close eye on everything your bank (credit card company) sends you!
- Limited purchase amounts on debit cards -- JPMorgan Chase and others are also considering capping the debit purchase amount to $50 or $100. Imagine going for a nice dinner, weekly food shop or clothes shopping for the kids and having a purchase limit of $50? Will we now have to swipe the card five times and sign five times for a nice family dinner out? Does this seem like it makes our lives as Americans better?
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