Last-Ditch CU Effort To Minimize Interchange Bid

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WASHINGTON – Several lawmakers were working on behalf of credit unions last night in a final effort to soften the interchange amendment in the bank reform bill, even after participants in the House-Senate conference hammering out the final legislation agreed to include the interchange provision.

The last-ditch effort to shape the final language came as CUNA and NAFCU pulled their support for the bank bill and are now calling on credit union representatives to contact their congress members and urge a “no” vote on the bill because of the interchange amendment.

The credit union opposition will have little practical effect on the bill, which is widely expected to pass Congress in the coming days, with or without credit union support.

Credit union allies Democrats Dennis Moore of Kansas and Gary Peters of Michigan were negotiating with congressional leaders on language that would broaden the ability of the Federal Reserve to consider a variety of expenses incurred by card issuers when the Fed reviews interchange fees charged by the biggest banks for their fairness, sources told Credit Union Journal last night. The broader review would help credit unions because they expect to be affected by any price the Fed sets for big banks, the sources said.

The lawmakers were also working with congressional leaders to toughen anti-discrimination language in the bill that would bar retailers from favoring card issued by big banks forced to lower their fees over credit union cards.

The move came as the credit union lobby backed away from the final bill, which must still be approved by the full House and Senate after the conference approves a combination of separate bills passed by each chamber. In an action alert, CUNA President Dan Mica said credit unions should write, call and request meetings with lawmakers in their home districts over the weekend, and beyond if necessary.

In a letter to all members of the House and Senate Mica said CUNA would have supported the bill without the interchange amendment. “Nevertheless, the debit interchange provision would not only adversely affect how credit unions provide access to members’ accounts, but also it would almost certainly increase costs to credit union members,” wrote Mica, who asked each lawmaker to vote no on the conference report.

“We oppose the bill, as it is now, based on the interchange language,” Fred Becker, president of NAFCU, told Credit Union Journal.

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