American merchants pay the highest merchant fees in the world, fees that are many times higher than the fees paid by merchants in most other developed countries. Last year alone, U.S. merchant’s paid more than $65 billion in merchant fees. And despite technological advancements that have led to decreased processing costs, merchant fees have continued to rise. For many merchants, merchant fees are the second-highest operating expense behind labor costs. It’s hard enough without these fees for a small business to remain profitable in today's competitive environment.
So what can merchants do in the face of these ever escalating merchant fees? Can you refuse to accept credit cards altogether? Unfortunately, that’s not feasible for most merchants. Could you raise your prices to cover the merchant fees? Most merchants do this, but it’s not fair to your customers who use cheap forms of payment (e.g. cash or checks) because then they end up paying the merchant fees, it also makes your prices higher and less competitive.
There’s really one answer here: to boost your profit margins overnight. By passing along merchant fees to credit-card using customers, merchants save money. When confronted with a credit card surcharge, some consumers pay the surcharge. Here the merchant benefits because the consumer is paying the merchant fee. Other consumers will prefer to avoid the surcharge and will use another form of payment, like cash, checks and debit. Again, the merchant benefits because cash, checks and debit are far cheaper to accept than credit cards.
Over 90% of businesses will lower customer prices when they no longer pay rates or transaction fees to accept credit cards. This will have a direct increase in customer satisfaction, customer retention and customer growth. Customers understand that there was a hidden cost factored in to every price to cover the costs to accept credit cards.
Australia implemented the same type of RateFree.org program and shows starting in 2003, now over 40% of merchants are part of this program. These Australian merchants saw no decrease in sales and with the lowered costs this translated to lowred customer prices and increased sales.