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Close watch required as credit cards interchange cap looms

Credit card providers are looking close and hard at their credit card fees, rewards and interest rates now. This comes on the heels of anticipated effects of upcoming EU cap on interchange fees.

With the purpose of eliminating the excessive fees passed on by businesses to their customers, the credit and debit card processing fees paid by a retailer’s bank to the cardholder’s bank for each purchase will be capped at 0.30% and 0.20% respectively on December 9.

But there is concern that credit card providers could end the lucrative reward deals and interest-free offerings, or even introduce or raise fees once the new cap is in place. This would prove to be detrimental to consumers, especially as they are already sometimes paying hefty sums as fees as well as interest rates for cash withdrawals and purchases.

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“The enquiry into card processing fees has been going on for years, so this cap will be good news for retailers who pay excessive charges. However, there are real concerns that the drop in these fees will be passed on as a new cost to customers while valuable reward schemes will be scrapped.

“Since the EU consultation began this year we have seen Capital One remove its cashback rewards from its credit cards, while Tesco Bank, NatWest and RBS have changed or withdrawn their point schemes. As of next year, Santander will also be increasing its yearly fee on its 123 credit card, which means consumers will be paying £12 extra for no additional reward.

“While there is an abundance of interest-free deals on the market, customers can often end up paying more for their credit cards in other ways. For example, the average cash withdrawal fee has risen from 3.19% a year ago to 3.23% today, while the interest rate charged has increased to 25.89%, up from 25.15% in 2014. Standard purchase charges are also becoming more expensive on most credit cards: the average purchase APR, which includes card fees, has now risen to 21.5% APR, up from 20.7% APR a year ago.

“With an estimated £51.1 billion spent using cards* and contactless payments becoming more popular, it’s clear that consumers are embracing plastic over cash. However, with charges likely to increase, consumers really do need to keep in mind the importance of paying more than the minimum monthly repayment, or they could end up being burdened with a long-term debt.”

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