Ordinarily, I don’t care when big companies get screwed by other big companies. It didn’t bother me that Bank of America had to cut the salary for several of their executives. Hey, they screwed Americans for years, making huge bucks for it. I also don’t get too bothered when Walmart is pushed out of a community. Maybe I’ll care more when they start paying a living wage to their employees or stop undercutting American manufacturing industry.
But when two big industries try to wring out that last buck in such a way as the individual gets screwed- where the only choice is hard or harder- and when they use the government to accomplish this, I get really peeved.
Case in point: Right now, many of you have debit cards from your bank or credit union. I remember my first Visa branded debit card, and I still believe these are the best things to come out of financial institutions. For those who don’t use these cards (and I know a few), here’s how they work. You put money in your checking account (like normal). Instead of having to write out physical checks, you can use these cards wherever you would use a credit card with the same branding. The money comes out of your account. Easy peezy. So you go to Walmart to buy something, and use your debit card just like you would use a credit card.
On the back-end, your bank or credit union charges Walmart a few cents for each transaction using a debit card. Walmart agreed to this because there is no downside for them. These transactions are cheaper for the company, more secure, and quicker to process than checks are. They are saving tons of money on this. And because Walmart doesn’t do anything that doesn’t make Walmart money, they increase their prices to compensate for the fees they are charged.
Recently, some genius at Walmart, and other companies, have figured that they can make even more money by jumping on the populist bandwagon and piling on the financial institutions. They have gone to Congress to ask that banks and credit unions lose the ability to charge companies these fees. They say that they are trying to help the people, who have to pay more money because of these fees. Make the financial institutions charge these fees directly to the customer, and all will be better.
See, this is where I get really annoyed. These fees aren’t for PEOPLE who want to use a debit card instead of checks. There is no bad side for a consumer who wants to be more environmentally friendly, more secure, and more technologically advanced, and the financial institutions don’t want to shift this interchange fee to the consumer. This is part of doing business. But Walmart, and others, are trying to get one less fee charged to them, without lowering prices for the consumer. So where does that leave you and me? We get crushed. If this plan is accepted by Congress, banks will shift that fee to us. Except instead of being a few cents out of every purchase (I think it works out to a quarter per purchase, but don’t quote me), we will have a monthly usage fee for using our debit card.
Is there anything we can do about it? Well sort of. Right now, Congress has gone ape—t wild on punishing banks and screwing any of us little guys that get in the way. It seems as if Congress members, many of whom have never had to work outside of high paying government jobs, don’t care about those of us who do have to worry about little things like excess fees and higher prices. But you should at least have your voice heard. Go to your financial institution and ask to speak to the manager. He or She is best equipped to put you in contact with the correct representative for your area. Many local institutions already have an advocacy program in place.