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I mean, technically no they don't. But that's just being pedantic. They charge the bank based on gross dollar volume, and the bank gets the money to pay for that from... interchange fees. The more volume the bank does, the more they pay and the more they get from interchange fees.

Interchange fee pricing is set based on how much mastercard charges the banks, so while technically true, the interchange fees are basically set by mastercard's pricing.






Interchange fee pricing is set based on how much MasterCard charges the bank

That’s not true though, or at least is a massive oversimplification. In the US, interchange fees are extremely inflated to allow banks to recuperate the rewards they give out to distinguish their card offerings from one another. The 2% cashback has to come from somewhere.


>In the US, interchange fees are extremely inflated to allow banks to recuperate the rewards they give out to distinguish their card offerings from one another. The 2% cashback has to come from somewhere.

And that's a bad thing, because it's essentially the poor subsidizing the rich. People who aren't able to get credit cards (or the "good" cash back credit cards) tend to be worse off financially than people who do.


+100! In Europe, they've limited interchange fees to a reasonable maximum. Banks can still make money, but don't offer crazy credit card rewards to the rich. I was sad to not get the rewards I was used to in the US, but happy that it was the greater good for society.

Also, with interchange fees at 0.3% and total card fees <1% for many shops, it's actually cheaper for sellers to accept cards than cash.

This is something people always miss in this discussion!

Cash is not free for the business. People always assume that businesses are losing out on revenue by accepting cards, and thar cards inflate the price for everyone.

But it's not free to accept cash - you have to manage your float, transport cash between the bank and your premises, and there can be bank charges to account for too. All of which can easily eclipse the cost of card fees, especially in markets like the EU where those are capped.


How do you figure? Is it from counterfeit money, or cost to transport the cash?

There is risk of theft too, not just robbery but from employees.

Usually the main reason some shops prefer cash is because they can put the cash directly in their pocket and do tax fraud on a percentage of their revenue.


Bringing cash to a bank either via deposit boxes or by collection is not free and coinage is even more expensive than paper. At least here in Europe

Yes, the fee for processing coinage and old notes is 50% in the bank I work for.

Wow, I just pour my coins into a machine that sorts and counts them for free at my bank.. oh right.. Credit Union!

Banks charge to deposit cash in business accounts

This has always struck me as one of the more blatant and out-in-the-open financial inequalities in this country.

It’s also a fake one. As the other commenter said, the credit card system came about bec cash was very expensive to use for stores. They were passing along those costs to consumers, the fact that that’s now inverted by some stores (cash discounts) is only doable bec of the prevalence of credit cards.

Stores need to accept cash regardless, so there’s still some minimal added costs to using cash, but even with the offered discount it’s less than the credit cards...

however if stores stopped accepting credit cards they would quickly find themselves drowning in the same costs that credit cards were invented to avoid.


Germany is still way more cash-based and you see less consolidation of businesses into large chains than in the US.

I'm not sure I buy "drowning in the same costs". I think there's something more akin to a prisoner's dilemma here.


Germany is cash-based because of consumer behavior, not because costs are somehow lower. With corona, e-Commerce and services like SumUp more widespread Germany will inevitably catch up with other countries.

@Symbiote:

Not sure were you were. I am from northern Germany, around Hamburg.

But every single store that does accept cards (not every little store can bear the fees, though) has theses signs.

So I would counter your n=1 anecdotal argument with an equally non representative n=1 argument. No one learns anything, except that some shops in Germany ask for the use of cash-alternatives, others don't.


In Denmark, the majority of shops have little signs "Due to Covid-19, please pay by card or phone" or sometime "Due to Covid-19, cash is not accepted".

On a recent trip to Germany, I didn't see a single such sign.

Germany is changing gradually, perhaps due to the EU's limits on the fees Visa and MasterCard can change, but Covid-19 doesn't seem to have much effect.


I live in Berlin and recommendations to pay by card can be seen in many places with preference for contactless payment. In fact, share of non-cash payments visibly increased here and surveys show that German attitude is already changing.

Maybe this is temporarily? I pay with card now. But intend to go back to cash after covid19.

Germany has seen a huge shift over the past months. Before that, paying by card for small ticket items such as in bakerys was frowned upon (or just not possible), now it's used by the majority in some areas.

In Norway, it is still illegal for stores to refuse cash. I know of only one store that does get away with it; I believe they do because they are primarily an online shop. Their physical store is merely a convenience for customers who happen to live nearby. Many (most?) stores still ask customers to pay with a card, though. To help out, the banks have raised the maximum amount payable by contactless cards without PIN entry.

It is technically illegal to not accept cash in Denmark with very few exceptions (I checked, since it seems to be legal in Sweden), but maybe due to COVID-19 this got relaxed or is just not enforced anymore. Not that anyone would notice, nobody pays with cash anyway except for German tourists who aren't coming this year.

I feel like this is probably a good thing. Cash payments are a very healthy thing to have in addition to digital payments.

I live in Germany at the moment and I do see this in many places. On the other hand there are also still shops where showing my card gets me a puzzling look as if I'm some kind of time traveller visiting from the future armed with my mysterious shiny plastic card.

In Stockholm, Sweden, many stores have stopped accepting cash altogether. Even before Covid.

In Gothenberg, Sweden, for instance, you can't buy public transport tickets with cash. Which meant that when a beggar approached me and asked for some cash so he could travel home, I knew he was lying. I hadn't even bothered getting any Swedish cash when I visited the country.

Depends where you are I guess. I have seen them everywhere in Germany.

Well, I thought so too in the start.

But I asked someone in a popular local store ( Belgium) and consumer behaviour hasn't changed.


How is this relevant to Germany?

Because Belgium and Germany is very similar on cash payments.

Also, you mention Covid would be a stimulator for digital payments and that doesn't seem the case in Belgium. So I wouldn't know why it would be the case for Germany.


The change in Ireland has been significant, it's made contactless be the default way to pay. I think it has removed the idea that something like a cup of coffee was too small to pay for via card/contactless. I don't think I have actually used cash in a number of months.

Before COVID one of the main banks AIB was to introduce some extra charges but they stopped that charge increase https://www.irishtimes.com/business/retail-and-services/aib-...


In the US you are a criminal if your business is dealing with large amount of cash everyday. That’s how credit card got the market share. Companies make the law so you will use their system. They dont profit if you use cash whywould they allow you to do that.

What are you referring to here? There are plenty of cash only businesses in my city and the owners aren't being thrown in jail for it.

I’m sure it varies but the US has a bunch of annoying regulations meant to curb money laundering. For instance, if you deposit $10,000 or more at the bank, you are required to fill out annoying paperwork to prove you aren’t laundering money. If you don’t want to fill out annoying paperwork so you only deposit $9,000 at a time, that is literally a federal felony.

Maybe your city has a “safety of crowds” thing going on but when cash only businesses start going scarce, I bet the remaining holdouts start getting more and more scrutiny.


KYC (Know Your Customer) laws are not exactly unique to the US.

The money industry tends to be heavily regulated, and self-regulated (PCI DSS) for a reason. Crime happens there because that's literally where the money is.

I'm doing my part, though. I pay with cash whenever I can. In Germany that's easy (often the only option e.g. in restaurants). In Sweden, not so much. And then there are countries in between.


Yeah, I don’t know how other countries differ from the US in this respect. Maybe the “war on drugs” made us paranoid about money laundering to the point where it eventually ground down the cash economy. Or maybe it really is our addiction to consumer debt.

Yup, there are some that even accept checks.

It's more like folks don't want to get robbed by keeping everything in cash, and so they use banks.

That’s another factor for sure. I’m not sure if the timing lines up—I remember credit cards being more and more broadly accepted over time compared to cash even after crime rates in the US dropped—but the US still has pretty high crime rates for a developed country.

Quite a few places in London are cashless now, typically non-essential stuff like lunch, where transaction time is important, contactless is much faster. Cash costs are not insignificant, processing time, insurance, it's not really worth it when so few people pay with cash.

It's been accelerated sharply by the pandemic. The few holdouts changed tack. There's accessibility concerns for the unbanked.


At least we don't have hyperinflation. That's even worse for the poor. Though to be sure I agree with you. We really need to fix this, but it's not going to happen. Right now we're paying an enormous -unprecedented?- political attention tax that is starving lots of important issues of oxygen.

Inflation doesn't affect the poor so long as wages keep up with inflation. If you don't have money, there's nothing to inflate.

They did say hyperinflation.

Characteristic of hyperinflation, is that nothing keeps up with it. Forget wages keeping up: your very paycheck is worth less at the end of two weeks than it was when you received it.


Your comment makes me think you weren't even close to hyperinflation, ever.

Sincerely, a guy who survived 313 000 000 % inflation per month.


> Inflation doesn't affect the poor so long as wages keep up with inflation

Does it? In an inflationary environment the status quo is that your wages shrink. I guess it’s better than holding cash because you can renegotiate your wages back, but I don’t think rich people have most of their assets as cash.


> In an inflationary environment the status quo is that your wages shrink.

The US is a classical inflationary environment and wages have kept pace with inflation forever.

Indeed, inflation only, and intentionally, punishes those who hoard cash.


Not always, depending on your timeframe. eg. if you look at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a4/United_S... there’s about 2 decades where the real wage went down.

Fair enough.

I would note that chart begins prior to ending the gold standard in 1971, and it has tracked very well since 1995.

I was off-base when I said "forever." I should have said in recent history.


I think that's an oversimplification, because credit transactions tend to be 20%+ higher ticket sizes than cash purchases. In a way, the credit card surcharge baked in is something of a volume purchasing incentive. Further, the networks do explicitly permit cash discounts on card transactions, and always have. Merchants tend not to offer them, though.

> credit transactions tend to be 20%+ higher ticket sizes than cash purchases. In a way, the credit card surcharge baked in is something of a volume purchasing incentive

Funny you mention that, because that’s yet another case where it’s expensive to be poor. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, barely making ends meet, you likely don’t have the cash flow to stock up on a sale. So rather than buying 18 months worth of TP when there’s a sale + coupon on the 64 pack, you are buying the 4 pack at regular price that costs twice as much per unit.


“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”


I have read the book when I was a child but seeing it everywhere on HN is starting to get on my nerves. There is a shorter way to get the idea across. "If you buy cheap you buy twice."

> "If you buy cheap you buy twice."

And for the kinds of goods I buy, in most cases it doesn't hold up. Cheap shoes might be only 25% of the price of good shoes, but in my experience last 50% as long, costing less overall. Compound that with other chances of loss (getting dusty in the back of a cupboard and eventually being thrown out in a declutter), and cheap works out far cheaper


I read the books as a child, too, and I appreciate when those quotes come up. They demonstrate something about the books that never became clear to child-me, something I only dimly started to grasp when I was older and only fully realized a lot later: Those books go far far beyond an entertaining story. They are a pointed critique of society and politics. They have an opinion. They're not mere books for children.

And the point Samuel Vimes is making goes far beyond a simple "If you buy cheap, you buy twice." It extends that basic knowledge by realizing that some people have no other option than to buy cheap, forcing them to spend resources over and over and over again and still get a worse result in the end, and how this is a fundamental and systemic social unfairness.


Note: this is a market inefficiency. In an efficient well-operating system, if you can afford ten dollars a year for cheap boots, you should be able to get some agreement with your employee or a local bank to get a loan for $50 boots plus some interest that's still gonna be less than the cumulative $10 you pay for fresh boots every year. If you will reliably have the money for $10 boots and can prove/provide evidence that you will, you should be able to get the $50 boots now. The problem is twofold: first, proving you are reliable can be hard, and second, even given credit people still often make purchase decisions that don't last long, partially because they simply don't know what sort of purchases are prudent.

Also there is a huge risk that the $50 boots aren't actually any better.

I don't disagree that this is regressive and unfortunate, although the bigger issue in my mind (and I get we can have two problems and solve both at once) is free parking. The poor tend to use transit but the cost of parking is baked into each purchase thereby subsidizing the wealthy, too. [1]

[1] https://www.vox.com/2014/6/27/5849280/why-free-parking-is-ba...


There’s a lot of transaction costs to charging for parking. Maybe with technology it can be completely automated but historically that’s been a huge reason for free parking.

A recent development: "Tap to pay" enabled transit systems are driving large increases in transaction volume.

It's a way around the truth in lending laws,* to make interest rates appear lower than they are.

Instead of 2% cash back for some, they could just add 20 percentage points or so to the interest rates of everyone else. If you think this is unfair, you're really just saying that interest rates are applied unfairly. But it doesn't sound like that's your actual thought process. Is everyone who pays higher rates subsidizing those who pay lower? How do you know?

*This is not my original idea, but something I read somewhere.


That’s not really how credit cards work though. You only ever pay credit card interest if you carry a balance from month to month. Cash back doesn’t just reduce your effective interest rate; your effective interest rate can already be zero simply by virtue of paying the full balance due every month. And the credit system does literally nothing to discourage this behavior; in fact, the credit scoring algorithms incentivize it.

The money for cash back comes from transaction fees. It would have to. People go out of their way to find ways of maximizing their return from these kinds of systems so any cash back scheme that could be too easily gamed would fall prey to these people. That actually happened once, albeit to a “merchant”. The US mint used to let you buy $1 coins, online, with a credit card, for $1 each and free shipping. You could literally buy your entire credit limit’s worth of $1 coins, deposit those same exact coins at your local bank branch to pay your credit card bill before it came due, and straight up profit from the cash back.


It's just a shell game. You think it's really different, but to the corporate bean counters the money is fungible.

You pay 2% in transaction fees, you may or may not get almost all of it back as "cash back".

In a world without significant transaction fees, we wouldn't have the grace period either, and the people who get the most cash back would pay lower rates and others higher.

The reason the powers that be like the current system and would lobby against a crackdown on fees is because it feels like they're giving you something with the grace period, and giving you something if you get cash back.

But it's just a play on psychology. If there's an injustice, I think it has to boil down to evaluating credit risk incorrectly.


> It's just a shell game. You think it's really different, but to the corporate bean counters the money is fungible.

Guaranteed per-transaction revenue is not fungible with interest revenue. Interest revenue is extremely discounted by both time value and default risk.

> In a world without significant transaction fees, we wouldn't have the grace period either...

At that point, most of the lower-risk customers who use credit cards would switch to debit cards, credit card interest would probably have to go up due to adverse selection and higher default risk, and credit cards would be a much smaller business overall.


There are costs associated with accepting and securing cash as well.

Isn't that the fault of the credit system though? Those who have access to more credit (or have better credit) are able to take advantage of these offers.

and that's why this is called systemic inequality - the inequality is built into the rules of the system.

I'll go one step further. This inequality is built into how humans work.

Most of us would not extend credit to somebody with low odds of returning it, so why do should we expect companies and organizations to behave differently? I feel like wrapping this up as in the pretty words "systemic inequality" is framing it as some constructed oppressive structure, which I'm loathe to do.


Sometimes humans are selfish, sometimes they are generous.

You don't like the term "systemic inequality" yet you're framing the problem in terms of our current system: very impersonal, only-the-numbers-and-ROI matters.

If you phrased it as "most of us would choose to exploit the more desperate because they have very little alternatives instead of willingly helping out" you might trigger different instincts. Instincts that would favor restricting interest rates and favoring a stronger social safety net.

There are more generous and forgiving systems that have existed successfully elsewhere in human history, so they're not incompatible with human nature, so yes, I think it's fair to characterize the American system as iniquitous.

Why should someone else's desparation and need be solely viewed through the lens of economic opportunity for someone else?


You don't even need RoI here, and I never even had that baked in. Any sustainable system of credit even would result in the same phenomenon.

In it's simplest form, to make a loan, you have to have the resources to loan out to begin with. Furthermore, dereliction of debt is expected. There is no guarantee that people will repay in a timely manner, and missed payments/discharged debts are not uncommon. As such, interest rates can serve to create a sustainable system by helping to cover these debts.

Discount any consideration of their ability to repay, and what you give is no longer a loan, but a gift. A gift at the cost of others that you loan to.


> very impersonal, only-the-numbers-and-ROI matters.

What would be a more personal approach when figuring out whether or not to loan the money to someone?


Deciding to lend to someone because you know them (they are "part of the community"), or they are a friend, or they are family. Of course it can be seen as more "humane" but it can also be seen as nepotism and/or a system excluding newcommers/strangers.

The condition is still the same. "Will he/she be able to pay me back/ return the favor"

And that condition will always benefit those who can return back. It's not about being newcomer or stranger, it's about being able to identify if it's a loan you can do.


That sounds like the personal system of honor being used for credit worthiness. Which wound up leading to dueling while doing a worse job of the primary task than banker evaluations. Needless to say all around it was a worse system with worse outcomes and worse externalities.

Not extending credit to people who are likely to default: makes sense

Denying a 2% discount to people who are likely to default: ???


Could argue that it "makes sense" in exactly the same way - when you offer the discount, you increase overall spend / demand, i.e. you increase the size of the loan, which is something that as the lender you would prefer to do toward people with better credit.

Do you think it’s not fair for credit card issuers to try to attract customers that have a higher value to them by offering rewards? Regardless, approvals are mostly based on credit history and not wealth. I was a low income earner for years but paid my bills and credit cards on time so I could get any card I wanted.

Lots of CC bonuses have a minimum spend specifically to filter richer customers.

The problem is not that the company is trying to make money, it's that this market has become an oligopoly with too much pricing power. With the prevalence of credit card purchases this is a tax on every transaction in the economy. Even people that don't use a CC pay a price set for those that do.


In the EU, interchange fees are capped at 0.2% of transaction value for debit cards, and 0.3% for credit cards.

This has indeed meant that rewards and cashback credit cards have largely disappeared (with the exception of Amex, which operates outside the interchange system?).

Rewards/cashback cards that do still exist are typically tied to specific retailers, with whom the issuing bank has cut their own deals.


AMEX is a three-party system, whereas Visa/MC are a four-party system. The difference is that AMEX themselves issue their cards, whereas for Visa/MC it's the customer's bank (on license by Visa/MC). Since the customer's bank sets the interchange fee, a merchant can't possibly know what it's going to be before the transaction.

With AMEX the merchant does know the exact fee structure and can therefore decide to accept or not to accept AMEX ahead of time. That's essentially the argument why the fees for AMEX were not capped.


Sounds like a Pyramid scam

> with the exception of Amex, which operates outside the interchange system?

Right, but try using Amex in Europe.

Outside of major international hotel chains, or where you can do your purchase online through Paypal, you may as well not bother asking if they accept it.


Outside of major international hotel chains, or where you can do your purchase online through Paypal, you may as well not bother asking if they accept it.

It's very interesting to hear that.

When I first started traveling to Europe, having an American Express card (or even better, AmEx travelers checks) was the best way for an American to pay for things. It's even written into some classic books and movies.

My how things have changed.


I don't think American Express card have ever been a practical way of paying for things in Europe.

I would guess 90% of Europeans have never even seen one of these cards, unless they work in international hotels or tourist places.


I'm Dutch, and my dad had both an American Express and a Diner's Club card from his work. I never really understood why those would be better than other credit cards.

I got assigned an American Express card to pay for expenses when I got a job with British Gas about 20 years ago. It was a bit of a pain because it often wasn't accepted. There was definitely some sweet deal for BG to use Amex as, as has been said above 90% of Europe were using Visa/Maestro

In Poland AFAIK when you sign up for a card terminal the company that lends it to you usually gets a cut from the transactions (besides the bank and card companies).

And there is a lower % for normal/popular cards (Visa/Mastercard) and higher (even 4%) for Amex, so most stores just ignore it and remove the Amex symbol from their terminal.

And yet, my company provides Amex corporate card for bussiness travel, but we usually go to US, so Amex is more accepted there.


> It's even written into some classic books and movies.

That was one of the deciding factors when I was planning on getting a second credit card (so I'd have a backup while travelling).

I knew here in Australia they are not widely accepted, with only major retailers accepting it typically, but I thought that this was just Australia being backwards.

After spending the first two or three weeks trying to pay for things with it, I gave up except on checking into a new hotel.


I think it differs a great deal between countries in the EU. I'm Swedish and I have an Amex card and most of my friends and colleagues use Amex as well. I use it for about 85% of my spending each month. The only places in Stockholm that don't accept it are smaller coffee shops, restaurants that don't get that many tourists and mom and pop stores.

You could probably get by here with just an Amex card and cash, but I keep a backup card for the places that don't accept Amex.


Odd. I'd given up trying to use it by the time I got to Sweden.

Your neighbours (Norway and Denmark) were unwilling to accept it. I forget which supermarkets I tried it in in both of those countries, but three large chains all had their card terminals reject it and the staff looked at it like I'd tried to use a hotel keycard or something.


The big adoption driver in Sweden is the Amex SAS Eurobonus card which lets you collect air miles with the card. It's one of the few cards in Sweden that lets you "game" a points system slightly.

I wouldn't just have amex and cash in Sweden. My experience is that most places don't accept amex, and soon most places won't accept cash either.

I think it used to be that way, but it's slightly better now. I live in London. I have a friend who has an Amex and a normal card, and will always try to pay with the Amex first to rack up reward points. The only time i see him pay is when we're in a bar or restaurant together, usually independent places rather than chains, and i would say Amex is accepted over 70% of the time.

It’s accepted in a lot of places here in NL. I have a Dutch amex. Aldi, Jumbo, Hema, all accept it.

https://www.americanexpress.com/nl/voordelen/shopping/


That AmEx have a website listing where the card can be used shows it is far less-accepted than Visa or MasterCard.

I'm not surprised supermarkets accept it. Does your local pizza takeaway, kiosk or bar accept it?


In NL, your local pizza takeaway, kiosk or bar doesn't take anything but the local system ("Maestro", but a different Maestro than anywhere else in the world) anyway.

There are still a few non-Amex cards that offer cashback with any retailer, although the amounts are small; e.g. Capital One (0.5%), Barclaycard (0.25%).

"The 2% cashback has to come from somewhere."

Yes, but in reality, the program comes from an upside down approach to overcoming the obviously anti-competitive practices that VISA/MC use to forbid retailers from offering discounts for not using VISA etc..

You can't say "Get 2% if you use cash instead of VISA". (Notice that nobody ever advertises that?) Because VISA doesn't allow it.

You also can't say "$1.99 + 20 cents processing charge" - no, the price must be listed including charges. (Notice that nobody every does this?)

But you can possibly find ways to give points, or 'cash-back'.

Until now ... [1]

VISA is now saying that even such 'cash back' rewards programs are a violation of its rules.

Have a look at the press release - it's positively Orwellian:

"In order to maintain a level playing field" -> "In order to avoid all transparency and maintain our hidden monopoly" we require that nobody can take steps which highlight the how our transaction fees are embedded in the price.

These are pretty blatant anti-competitive practices and taking them on is tantamount to taking on the entire banking system. It's not going to happen.

There would need to be an 'outside disruptor' like the Word Processor to the Typewriter kind of thing.

[1] https://www.pymnts.com/visa/2018/non-compliant-cash-discount...


The outside disrupter was supposed to be Apple Pay, but that didn't work and now Apple just issues credit cards (through Goldman Sachs). Visa/MC has such a monopoly stranglehold that getting kicked off their Network is tantamount to going broke. There are esoteric options aka Bitcoin, money order, check, but if being able to accept credit cards makes this drastically more difficult. (Ask the legal cannabis industry how it's going.) More modern attempts at disruption - Zelle/PayPal/Venmo are totally at the mercy of the banks. Who are quite happy with the status quo.

Apple Pay charges a fee as well. It also isn’t a payment system but a tokenization system similar to the chip on credit cards. Zelle was created by the big bank which is why you don’t see it at the small local banks. None of the competitor banks(fintech) have zelle support and I guess this isn’t their choice. They have to move money by ach with is much slower.

Any payment/money movement system needs a license and you’re still bound by federal rules on AML and KYC. It makes it hard to support the cannabis industry. AML laws will force you to report large cash movements.


They may be referring to Apple Pay Cash, which is an iMessage-based venmo style service where you cash out via ACH or pay in stores using your Cash balance.

Small banks can integrate zelle, it’s their choice they’re not being locked out

0.75 per transaction locks out the small banks. It would be the most expensive way to transfer money.

I wasn’t aware of the cost TBH. I guess they can always develop their own zelle substitutes if they feel it’s worth it, not sure the economics of that are in their favor. Just saying you can’t ignore the upfront investment the builders put into creating and maintaining it while also pointing to the unit costs they charge the network partners. I’m sure it’s all negotiable with volume.

Uhh my bank’s $30 to wire fee would beg to differ. Literally any fee less than that for a same-day transfer is worth it.

That’s what the banks pay to use zelle.

The $30 wire fee is what a bank charges you to make money and dependent on the bank. Underlying systems near free to use like ach for domestic wires.


My point is the bank could easily pass the cost onto the customer.

Zelle is just a facade on top of ACH.

The outside disrupter was supposed to be Facebook currency and I am glad it didn't happen as Facebook has enough power already and this would starting to go in WeChat direction.

The vending machine in my Apartment bldg has a sticker saying that credit card price is $0.10 more than the stated price and to use cash/coin to get the stated price. The machine does not accept bills or coins.

I should add because I cannot edit my comment that some of these parameters have changed in the last few years, however, it various by jurisdiction. Also, the universal incumbency established by these players was deeply entrenched before such programs were relinquished.

You can't say "Get 2% if you use cash instead of VISA". (Notice that nobody ever advertises that?) Because VISA doesn't allow it.

I see this all the time. * At more than one bookstore, the dry cleaner, markets, my current and previous landlord, my accountant, and pretty much every gas station since the 1990's.

* Pre-quarantine. Now I don't see anything.


There are cases, where the person you're interacting with isn't likely to be audited or doesn't have a direct contract with the payment processor.

Gas stations I find weird, in general. How did they get that exception?


It’s really only one chain I see doing that, and I’ve never bought gas from them and never will. The first time I lied in and they told me they were charging more for card I left.

They should have told you that they were charging less for cash.

Lots of gas stations have the 'cash' price listed on the sign

>Get 2% if you use cash instead of VISA"

Some gas stations where I live have a "credit" price and a lower "cash" price.


That's because US federal law no longer allows credit card companies to forbid cash discounts.

The above poster was incorrect.


(1) Cash discounts were always permitted ("2% off for paying with cash")

(2) Credit surcharges and minimums used to be forbidden, but they are not anymore ("2% surcharge for paying with credit, minimum $10 for card payments")

(3) It wasn't federal law, it was the merchant agreements that precluded credit card minimums and surcharges as a condition of signing up to accept credit card payments from each of the major issuers.


In Germany lots of places just don’t accept any cards besides Visa and MasterCard just because of the seller fees.

And even Visa and MasterCard took a while to get hold. I remember Aldi holding out for ages.

There are many places in Europe that have weird rules... Like some dutch places not accepting EU debit cards. Aldi in Ireland doesn't accept out of country debit cards.

I've also seen a number of gas stations in ND that have a $10 minimum for cards. This also carried over to some grocery stores.

Small dollar transactions really need a better solution. Idk swipe rates, but something like 2.9% + $0.30 being a total transaction cost of 5.9% is just insane. Especially if you’re business is majority small transactions such as could be the case in a bodega or gas station.

Yes that was a very odd thing about moving to SF: people using credit cards on <$5 transactions and merchants actually allowing it.

> You can't say "Get 2% if you use cash instead of VISA". (Notice that nobody ever advertises that?) Because VISA doesn't allow it.

> You also can't say "$1.99 + 20 cents processing charge" - no, the price must be listed including charges. (Notice that nobody every does this?)

We see these a lot in Australia. I wish they'd enforce the same pricing here for cash and card — I don't like to carry cash around, and I hate it that I have to pay a surcharge when paying by card.


We see a lot of those in Australia because the ACCC took on Visa/MC and won.

https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/prices-surcharges-receipts...


In Australia, there are two environments, the Visa/MC networks, and EFTPOS. EFTPOS is owned by the AU banks and is AU only.

A Visa or MC credit or debit card txn go via the Visa or MC networks.

An EFTPOS txn goes via the EFTPOS network, it's much cheaper.

In AU, the fees are regulated and must be disclosed to the user as an extra charge. Most businesses much prefer the EFTPOS network because it's much cheaper.

Until recently, the contactless environment didn't support EFTPOS, so it always used the Visa or MC networks. Same applies to Google and Apple Pay.


I remember being charged 5aud for paying by card at a hostel, being Swedish this was a very weird experience. While I do like the anonymity of cash, cards are very convenient.

I think it's fair to pay for convenience.

Definitely, but 5aud for a single low value transaction is a bit steep.

Well, there is a cost when you use your card.

If there is no price differentiation, this just means everyone has to share the cost, rather than the people who choose to use it


> I don't like to carry cash around, and I hate it that I have to pay a surcharge when paying by card.

So you think your use of a credit card should be subsidized by people who pay in cash?


People who pay in cash are subsidizing the store’s costs to handle cash. Paying employees to count the cash (usually after closing), putting it in the safe, distributing the cash to cash registers, refilling when they run out of change, paying for the security service (Brinks etc) to deliver cash to/from the bank, insurance against robbery...

Cash is not free for a store to handle. Stores pay transaction fees on credit cards, sure, but they save on all the costs of cash. A hypothetical store that takes credit cards only would not have any of these costs and their vulnerability to robbery/theft would be limited to merchandise and capital only, saving the cost of insurance against theft of cash. For some types of businesses (services rather than retailers), this makes their office a pretty unattractive target for burglars and eliminates employee theft of cash.


This is an interesting argument, but it is not backed up by actual store behavior.

Stores generally try to give extra charges for using credit cards, not the other way around.

It seems like the fair thing to do, should be to allow a store to do whatever it wants, and make these credit card requirements illegal.

So, it would be allowed for stored to charge extra for either cash or credit, whatever they choose, and the credit card companies would be forbidden from stopping this.


That seems to be what we have in The Netherlands.

It's common for online stores to charge a few percent extra for credit card payment (the base price usually applies for the most common form of online payment, iDEAL, which is cheaper, I guess because the banks cut out Visa/MC).

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some physical stores and restaurants (usually chains) that don't accept cash. They're allowed to do that, given that they state so very clearly upfront.


> "Cash is not free for a store to handle."

that's like saying opening the doors everyday to customers is not free. it's true, but misses the point. handling cash, like paying for utilities, is a fundamental cost of doing business, and so it should be, because the right to anonymity and privacy is woven into cash. not so much with electronic transactions, which are optional, alternative costs.


No, it's not a fundamental cost of doing business, and many businesses no longer so that.

Your argument is one for considering exposing the cost of any payment mechanism to the customers.

(Especially when the cost between different payment mechanisms differ a lot.)


Indeed. And if stores make their accounting and realize that cash handling costs more than credit card handling, they should be able to add a cash surcharge as well.

It just happens that they dont want to do that, because dealing with cash is cheaper


In many places, paying cash is faster than paying by card. Before contactless, with optimized (rounded) pricing, you would often get 3x the throughput (nowdays less) and for small transactions the fees were ridiculous (smaller with contactless).

I wonder how much more expensive credit cards actually are? Cash costs money/time to handle and deposit, it's easily stolen, and easy to commit fraud with (like the classic move where a drive thru employee pockets the cash from a sale without ringing it up)

One issue I know smaller retailers sometimes have is that it can take a long time to get cleared funds into their account.

One small cafe near a place I used to work said it usually took 30-60 days for funds to clear into their account after a card transaction. That, for them, was a major problem as it meant that they couldn't then pay their suppliers in a timely manner when cashflow was highly variable.

Then again, a bakery I visited that was in a small town said they'd stopped taking cash, as they got robbed some huge number of times.


The computerization of order taking and kitchen tickets would seem to make it harder to charge a customer without ringing it up? I know you could cancel it in the system, but that's gotta be counted somewhere where a manager is going to see it eventually?

Depends on how much you can trust your employees.

> So you think your use of a credit card should be subsidized by people who pay in cash?

I don't think it should be so clear cut like that. The credit card processing fees charged by the processor is a cost of doing business and should just be factored into the pricing without being explicitly passed on to a subset of customers. For example, a shopping centre or convenience store may have toilets that only a subset of customers would use. Should the customers who bought something without using the toilet be "subsidising the cleaning costs"? If a store offers online ordering, should customers who ordered online be "subsidising the rent of the physical store"?


If the toilets cost 3% of revenue, then yes they should charge separately for using the toilets.

Or rather, they should have the option to do so.

It's a valid business decision to NOT charge extra for the toilets, too. Just like shops usually don't charge people who are a bit slower in the checkout line more for taking up cashier time.


This used to be the case, but it isn't anymore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressions_Hair_Design_v._Sch...

Plus, plenty of gas stations show a cash/credit price on their signs.

The merchants are no longer allowed to block this behavior.


That's applicable to legislation, private contracts can still require no surcharge.

Interestingly, in Japan most electronic shops (like Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera) have a point card where you get 5% not directly as cash back but as "points" that you can use any time for a further purchase.

But that's only if you pay by cash, you don't get any point by paying by card.


Yodobashi offers a 5% discount if you pay with visa card. Combine that with the 8% tax free deduction if you hold a temporary tourist visa.

> You also can't say "$1.99 + 20 cents processing charge" - no, the price must be listed including charges. (Notice that nobody every does this?)

The place I went to yesterday for lunch did this. This is in Silicon Valley. I believe it was a 3.9% credit card fee.


You never see that in Europe. What you see is shop owners claiming their POS is broken.

I find it pretty nuts that the person who chooses the payment method doesn’t pay the charge. I always try to pay with cash if I can help it.

You were always allowed to offer cash discounts. What you weren't allowed to do was impose credit card surcharges. That was recently eliminated.

You’re correct in 99% of cases. Somehow gas stations can advertise different prices for cash.

Since Jan. 27, 2013, all retailers have been allowed to charge a fee for using credit. However, there are a lot of rules which are hard for regular retailers to follow, but easy for gas stations to follow, which is why you mostly only see it at gas stations.

Like some kind of virtual coin.

The ability to purely make transactions is trivial - you can just use a debit card. The value of credit cards comes from other factors like fraud protection, SCI compliance, actual credit, etc.

Debit cards also charge some fees, but typically lower.

The fraud protection of credit cards mostly comes out of the pockets of the merchant, I think? So the merchant could give people a discount for using means of payment without a chargeback, like cash.

You are right about the actual credit. Though eg in Germany people usually use their overdraft in a same way that American seem to be using their credit cards for short term credit.

(For either convenience is the main selling point. The fees and interest rates for overdraft and credit card debt are usually quite high, I think?)


Sure, but the base rate comes from MC/Visa. Precessing credit cards is a low margin business. It's basically a race to see who can charge as close to the MC/Visa rates as possible.

This isn't really about Visa-MasterCard, it's about a darling like Stripe charging 2.95% because 3% is customary.

People will freak about their customary rent/take being threatened. They gotta come out of the woodwork and justify the charge... somehow. A HN proxy battle!


They want to eat too.

And these technicalities matter a lot. They make, in some cases, the difference between legal an illegal. Not understanding them leads to wrong conclusions.

I agree with the OP that we need to be informed in order to have the conversation.

But..... You have the main point here. The whole premise of monopolies is that monopolies dominate bottlenecks, and use them to generate outsize revenue and protection from competition.

Facebook doesn't make money directly from whatsapp. It can be used to generate data for FB's main advertising business. Most importantly, it helps maintain facebook's dominant position in social media. That position is revenue generating.

I agree that understanding the mechanics are important. But, we can't keep treating monopolies as innocent of monopolistic practice until proven guilty. The reason we have antitrust in the first place is that monopoly positions lead to monopolistic practices. We need to assume monopolistic practices exist in the case of a monopoly. When one monopolistic practice (eg amazon marketplace or adwords) has been proven in court, this should be treated as proof of monopoly, not a standalone violation.

Same with the CCs.


So formula wise it would be something like this?

d = dollars t = transactions count

I(d,t) = Interchange total profit/cost to a bank from fees in and out F(d) = scaling function for interchange returns based on cash pushed through as an arbitrary function G(t) = transaction cost function based upon arbitrary scaling.

I(d,t) =F(d) - G(t)




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