A small business lobby unveiled a campaign Thursday to get Canadian consumers to use debit cards or cash as a protest against what merchants say are too-high credit card merchant fees.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is giving its 108,000 member businesses signs to be placed at cash registers and tables across the country to promote the alternative method of payment.

"This consumer campaign is the next big step in a two year fight with credit card companies and banks on the rising cost of accepting credit cards," senior vice president Dan Kelly said in a release.

"Most consumers are unaware that each time their credit card is swiped, the merchant pays between 1.5 to 3 per cent of the sale to the credit card company, while an Interac debit transaction costs less than 12 cents."

"With a credit card, it's not a few cents per transaction. It's an actual percentage of the total sale, so it can be several dollars, if you're buying a $100 or more," Kelly told CBC News.

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The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is giving its 108,000 member businesses signs like this, to be placed at cash registers and tables across the country to promote the alternative method of payment. (CFIB)

"Our aim here is to make consumers aware of the higher processing fees their local merchants have to pay in order to process transactions using credit cards — particularly new higher cost premium credit cards like Visa Infinite or MasterCard World Elite," he said.

Consumers may get extra points for using their credit cards, but they end up paying higher prices to cover those costs, said Kelly.

The CFIB has piloted this campaign in a few of its member businesses already. One restaurant owner in Ontario went, over a few years, from having 60 per cent of his customers pay by credit card to having the same proportion pay by debit. 

"He said it saved him tens of thousands of dollars," said Kelly, "and that's helped him keep his menu prices at a reasonable level."

The Competition Bureau recently found that Canada's credit card costs were among the highest in the world.