Matz Calls for Exemptions in Fed Interchange Rulemaking

NCUA chair cites the need to protect small institutions.

February 17, 2011

NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz called upon the Federal Reserve to craft a debit card interchange rule that reflects Dodd-Frank Act language addressing small institution pricing issues.

In a February 16 letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Matz calls for the regulation implementing the statutory interchange provision to contain “meaningful exemptions for smaller card issuers.”

Matz adds, “The Act explicitly exempts card issuers with total assets under $10 billion from any interchange fee regulation. In addition to exempting small issuers from the fee limits, I believe it is important that small issuers be exempted from requirements related to network exclusivity and routing restrictions.

“Such action would be consistent with the exemption from the interchange transaction fee rulemaking, which is intended to shield smaller institutions from the costs of the act,” she continues.

The Dodd-Frank Act requires the Federal Reserve to consult with NCUA and other financial institution regulators in formulating the new rules governing debit card interchange transactions.

In the letter, Matz also notes that 17% “or nearly 1,000 federally insured credit unions offering ATM/debit card services possess total assets of less than $10 million, and more than 3,000 (59%) possess total assets less than $50 million. The current rule’s prohibitions against network exclusivity and merchant routing restrictions could significantly increase both fixed and variable costs for these small institutions, resulting in an inability to remain competitive with larger card issuers.”

The new rule will take effect in July. See Matz’s letter here [pdf].