Fee Busting

Published in CSP Daily News

NACS, new coalition to confront credit card issuers

AUSTIN, Texas -- Petroleum retail and convenience store operators struggling under the growing weight of credit card transaction fees can take heart. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and several other retail-oriented industry groups are banding together to address the issue, pooling their resources to attain the kind of pull that until now only the likes of Wal-Mart have been able to achieve.

Retailers attending the Texas Petroleum & Convenience Store Association (TPCA) convention and trade show in Austin, Texas, listened to [image-nocss] news of the coalition at an educational session early yesterday.

Gray Taylor, who spearheads the credit card strategy for NACS, addressed a group of about 30 retailers concerned over the issue of mounting credit card transaction fees. He said groups such as the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which represents grocers and other food retailers; the National Retail Federation (NRF); NATSO, which represents truckstops and travel plaza operators; the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) and several other associations are all involved in the new entity called the Merchant Payment Coalition.

Taylor said that when Visa and the MasterCard first created monopolies on credit card transactions the purpose was to get necessary processes into the marketwith the idea that their fees would reflect the costs involved to the benefit of all stakeholders. But that premise is lost and the monopolies are pricing at will.

The coalition will use its newfound voice to lobby for legislation to help ease the burden of credit card fees, which in the days of higher gasoline prices are accounting for a skyrocketing percentage of a retailer's operational costs.

Jim Kolkhorst, president, Kolkhorst Petroleum, Navasota, Texas, said the new coalition is facing an uphill battle. However, the 10-store operator and petroleum wholesaler is optimistic and believes creating the coalition is a positive step. It's all about clout, he said.

In addition to announcing the formation of the new coalition, Taylor advised retailers at the educational seminar about ways to combat ever-increasing credit card fees:

Review processing contracts. Savings may come from a critical look at these documents. Accept and promote debit card use among customers. While the savings between credit and debit in terms of processing fees is diminishing, steering customers to personal identification number (PIN) based transactions is still cost effective. Consider two-tiered pricing. Admittedly a throwback to the 1970s, today's gasoline prices may warrant moving back to separate prices for cash and credit purchases. Examine automated clearing house (ACH) transactions. These transactions may require more effort from customers and store employees, but the move may reap rewards in the end.

The TPCA convention and trade show continues through today, with roughly 270 booths and between 1,500 and 2,000 attendees, according to association officials.