Visa Rules on Convenience Fees

In the payments ecosystem, Convenience Fee models are rising in popularity, but many merchants and agencies are unaware that the card-brands have issued explicit rules on how these fees may be applied.

If you are currently deploying a Convenience Fee-based payment model, you should take care to review these card-brand rules.

    1. Charged for a bona fide convenience in the form of an alternative payment channel outside the Merchant’s customary payment channels and not charged solely for the acceptance of a Card
    2. Added only to a Transaction completed in a Card-Absent Environment
    3. Not charged if the Merchant operates exclusively in a Card-Absent Environment
    4. Charged only by the Merchant that provides goods or services to the Cardholder
    5. Applicable to all forms of payment accepted in the payment channel
    6. Disclosed clearly to the Cardholder
      – As a charge for the alternative payment channel convenience
      – Before the completion of the Transaction. The Cardholder must be given the opportunity to cancel.
    7. A flat or fixed amount, regardless of the value of the payment due 
    8. Included as part of the total amount of the Transaction and not collected separately
    9. Not charged in addition to a surcharge
    10. Not charged on a Recurring Transaction or an Installment Transaction.

The eighth rule in this list is where serious risks of non-compliance frequently arise. According to Visa’s rules, Convenience Fees have to appear (and be processed and authorized) as a single transaction by the merchant of record. Solutions which process convenience fees as two separate transactions are therefore non-compliant, and can compromise your merchant account.

If you’re currently deploying or considering a convenience fee model, be sure to ask your payment provider whether they process convenience fees as a single transaction or a separate transaction. If the convenience fee solution involves running the convenience fee as a separate transaction, you may be at risk of losing your merchant processing account and compromising your ability to accept payments altogether.

Many popular solutions are not fully compliant with card brand rules, which is why it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of these requirements to ensure that your provider’s solution is compliant. Fully compliant programs do exist that can minimize your business risk while reducing your payment acceptance costs.

Click here or call 888-211-4470 to learn more.

Card Brand Updates for April 2019

stack-of-credit-cards-for-card-brand-update-blog-postIn April 2019, a series of updates are being implemented by the card brands. Some of these changes will affect pricing in certain categories and regions.

What follows is a summary of the fee changes, category modifications, and pricing adjustments that will result from these changes.

 Visa International Service Assessment Fee Changes

On April 12, 2019, Visa will be increasing the International Service Assessment Fee rates, which are assessed on transactions from merchants located in the U.S. when the card was issued in another country. The Fee Rate Levels below are determined by the settlement currency; the Base fee rate applies to transactions settled in U.S. dollars and the Enhanced fee rate applies to transactions settled in a currency other than U.S. dollars.

Visa Network Acquiring Processing Fee – Changes to International Fees

On April 1, 2019, Visa will be increasing fee rates for International Credit and International Debit and Prepaid transactions.

The Network Acquiring Processing fee is applied to all authorizations, both approvals and declines. Previously, domestic and international credit transactions were assessed the same fee rate. The same was true of the fee rates for debit and prepaid transactions (domestic and international transactions were assessed the same fee). The rate for U.S. domestic transactions will not be changing.

Mastercard Interchange Rate Adjustments for Existing Consumer Interchange Programs

Effective April 12, 2019, Mastercard will be adjusting the fee rates for the existing interchange fee programs categorized below:

Mastercard Commercial Interchange Rate Adjustments and Structure Changes

On April 12, 2019, Mastercard will be changing their U.S. Commercial Interchange structure and renaming some existing interchange programs as part of the consolidation of commercial interchange programs.

The fee rates for the existing interchange fee program categories are:

The fee rates for the new Mastercard Interchange Programs are:

Discover Interchange Fee Rate Adjustments

Effective April 12, 2019, Discover will be modifying interchange fee rates for some interchange program categories. With these changes, transactions in the impacted categories may qualify at the new fee rate amounts.

American Express Industry Category Rate Changes

On April 12, 2019, American Express will adjust existing pricing in the B2B/Wholesale, Restaurant, and Services & Professional Services Industry Categories.

Here are the pricing changes by industry category:

The Convenience Fee Conundrum

Working with laptop in office
Convenience Fees are an attractive solution for boosting your bottom line, but if you’re not careful, they can cost you your ability to accept payments altogether.

In the accounts receivable management (ARM) world, convenience-fee payment models are growing in popularity, and for good reason: When applied correctly, they have the ability to reduce a merchant’s payment processing costs significantly by charging the consumer or debtor a flat fee for the convenience of accepting payments online or over the phone (depending on the consumer’s/debtor’s State of residence).

What many collection agencies may not realize is that convenience-fee solutions are the subject of serious scrutiny from compliance experts (and enforcers), and if they’re not properly applied, they can cost the merchant their ability to accept payments altogether. Having their merchant accounts closed, being blacklisted, and being cut off from their banks are just a few of the potential hazards for a merchant who deploys this model without doing their due diligence.

Convenience Fees and Compliance

There are three layers of compliance that a merchant must consider if they are using a convenience-fee model:

FDCPA Guidelines

FDCPA guidelines prohibit “the collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law,” 15 U.S.C. 1692f(1). However, a third-party vendor, in most cases a payment processor, can charge the fee because that vendor is not subject to FDCPA, which only applies to third-party debt collectors.

State Requirements

The second leg of compliance is the state requirements or restrictions. Abiding by these rules is not as simple as just keeping a list of restricted states, as case law is constantly changing. Due to the dynamic nature of state requirements, it is crucial to monitor these changes and work with partners who stay up to date on statutes and can handle the differences in their technology.

Most of the payment processors who offer convenience fees are doing so in compliance with FDCPA and state requirements. From the card-brand perspective, however, there is a set of very specific rules pertaining to added charges such as convenience fees, Visa’s being the most restrictive, and many popular solutions are not in compliance with these rules.

Visa Card-Brand Rules

Visa defines three main types of fees: Surcharges, Convenience Fees, and Service Fees, each with their own set of restrictions. In the US, a Merchant that charges a Convenience Fee must ensure that the fee is assessed as follows:

1)  Charged for a bona fide convenience in the form of an alternative payment channel outside the Merchant’s customary payment channels and not charged solely for the acceptance of a Card

2)  Added only to a Transaction completed in a Card-Absent Environment

3)  Not charged if the Merchant operates exclusively in a Card-Absent Environment

4)  Charged only by the Merchant that provides goods or services to the Cardholder

5)  Applicable to all forms of payment accepted in the payment channel

6)  Disclosed clearly to the Cardholder:

– As a charge for the alternative payment channel convenience

– Before the completion of the Transaction the Cardholder must be given the opportunity to cancel.

7)  A flat or fixed amount, regardless of the value of the payment due

8)  Included as part of the total amount of the Transaction and not collected separately

9)  Not charged in addition to a surcharge

10) Not charged on a Recurring Transaction or an Installment Transaction

It’s the fourth and eighth items in this list that can, together, compromise a merchant account quickly: Convenience fees have to appear (and be processed and authorized) as a single transaction by the merchant of record.

As you are reading this, if you’re currently deploying or considering a convenience fee model that involves running the fee as a separate transaction, you may be at risk of losing your merchant processing account.

Fully compliant programs do exist that can minimize your business risk while reducing your payment acceptance costs.

Click here to learn more.

Payscout Leads Compliance Talks at ACA International Convention

Payscout hosted an interactive panel, “Payment Compliance Outlook and Why It Matters to Collection Agencies,” at the ACA International Annual Convention and Expo.ACA Convention, the largest event for the credit and collections industry, provides an opportunity for attendees to learn from experts whose innovative ideas keep professionals ahead of a shifting regulatory environment, informed of emerging legal trends, as well as uncovering emerging trends and best practices with industry leaders.

 

The panel was moderated by Payscout Strategic Sales and Business Development Manager – ARM, Fran Fisher, who appeared alongside Edward Marshall, Chair – Business and Litigation Payment Systems Practice at Arnall Golden Gregory, LLP; Brian Riley, Director of Credit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group; and Giles Witherspoon-Boyd, President and CEO at Protocol Enterprises.

 

Together, the group provided an outlook for payment compliance issues and regulatory changes expected under the new administration. Focus was placed on how regulations such as PCI DSS and Reg E – and changes to them – impacted collection agencies and other ARM companies. The panelists explained why it is important for organizers to pay attention, under the watchful eye of the CFPB, which oversees the payments industry.

 

The interactive session was one highlight of Payscout’s involvement in the ACA Expo. Payscout returned as a prominent exhibitor at the Convention and treated attendees to a new virtual reality (VR) experience highlighting the company’s thought-leading solutions and Award-Winning culture.

 

Payscout has been actively serving the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry for over a decade. The company built its reputation by providing unparalleled customer service and offering legitimate merchant accounts to collection agencies through reliable and highly sustainable acquiring banks. Payscout’s vision is to become the thought-leading and fastest-growing global payment processing provider in the world

 

Topics: ARM