MasterCard Inc. will start charging a new acquirer licensing fee in July, the company confirmed with American Banker on Thursday.
The second-largest payments network also confirmed on Friday that it will start charging a new third-party processor registration fee. Both fees were mentioned in a Barclays note to investors earlier on Thursday.
The move comes ahead of a new rule prohibiting network routing exclusivity on debit cards, as part of the Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act. That rule is slated to go into effect April 1. The Durbin amendment also led to a new rule capping debit interchange fees at around 24 cents, which went into effect last October.
"What we did is took a look at the value access to MasterCard's network provides to acquirers as well as those who work with them … and reevaluated our acquirer fee constructs and then have made the decision to institute new or increased fees based on the value the network is providing," MasterCard spokesman Seth Eisen told American Banker on Thursday.
He declined to discuss specifics on pricing of the new fees, but added in an e-mail on Friday that the annual fees "are determined in part by the licensee's acquired MasterCard credit and signature debit volume."
The fees "were announced to our acquirer customers in January," Eisen said in the e-mail.
He denied on Thursday that the fee changes are a result of the new routing rule, saying "what we've done is take a look at the overall environment."
But the fee changes follow an announcement by Visa last year to incentivize routing over its network in response to the new debit rules. The largest payments network has said it will introduce a fixed acquirer network fee that merchants would pay and lower variable transaction fees. Visa has yet to publicly release details of the new fee structure.
Even if MasterCard's new fees are not directly tied to Durbin amendment changes or Visa's plans, they are coming in a new economic environment created by the new regulations, says Greg Smith, a managing director with Sterne Agee.
"There are a few dials being turned up a bit by the acquirers and potentially by the networks because merchant customers are still paying less today" than they were before the Durbin amendment's debit interchange cap went into effect, says Smith.
"Merchants are still getting a benefit" from the reduction in interchange fees, says Smith, adding that "they're just not getting the full benefit."
"It creates an opportunity for acquirers to raise their own fees and merchants are still happy," and the networks could end up doing the same, Smith says.