Business group urges use of low-fee credit cards

A small business lobby is appealing to Canadian consumers to use credit cards that don't impose the highest fees on merchants.
Shoppers walk past a sale sign in a mall in Ottawa in December. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has asked consumers to use credit cards with lower merchant fees. Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press

A small business lobby is appealing to Canadian consumers to use credit cards that don’t impose the highest fees on merchants.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a list Monday showing what merchants pay for handling transactions on each type of card. The CFIB compiled the list based on a study of fee schedules posted by the banks and after negotiations with financial institutions on how the fees are assessed.

With over 200 MasterCard and Visa cards alone on the market, CFIB vice-president Dan Kelly said in a release, "consumers and small businesses have had virtually no ability to understand the costs their cards impose on merchants until today."

Regular cards may cost small business under 1.75 per cent of the sale in total fees while some premium cards cost over 2.7 per cent.

The Highest Fee Cards - MasterCard World or World Elite cards issued by Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Royal Bank and Capital One can carry among the highest merchant fees.

Biggest Issuers - Of the major banks, Bank of Montreal and CIBC are the main issuers of "premium" credit cards for consumers in Canada, each with six separate high cost cards.

Fewer high-fee cards - TD Canada Trust and Scotiabank, of the major banks, with one each.

And the number of higher-rate cards are increasing.

 "While banks and other card issuers have had high cost corporate cards for a long time," Kelly said, "over the last two years, many financial institutions have been pumping out premium credit cards to consumers."

"Small merchants are asking all Canadians to examine the card in their wallets against the list CFIB has issued to check if their card is imposing high costs on local entrepreneurs," Kelly said.

"The credit card industry is so confusing, consumers holding a President’s Choice MasterCard, for example, may think they are using a low cost, budget card, but in fact may be forcing merchants to pay 2.5 per cent of their entire purchase in fees to accept the card."

"This is over 40 per cent more in total fees than a consumer using a regular MasterCard," said Kelly.

"A consumer collecting Aeroplan points with a CIBC Aerogold Infinite VISA can cause a merchant to pay 30 per cent more in fees than one collecting Aeroplan points with a CIBC Aerogold VISA," he said.