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Credit cards and your business: fighting for fairness

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Credit cards may be handy for customers—but expensive for merchants like you. A long history of rising costs made this issue top of mind for you, and CFIB has been on your side.

For years, we have been a powerful force in negotiating with government and the credit card industry to ensure independent businesses like yours get a fair shake on payment processing.

In more than a decade of fighting, we have achieved several crucial victories for you:

  • A code of conduct that gives you more power with payment processors
  • Protection of Canada’s low-cost Interac debit system
  • Lower fees from Visa and Mastercard
  • Exclusive low rates for CFIB members with Mastercard
  • The ability to surcharge (coming soon) for premium cards

We’ve made progress, but the fight isn’t over. Credit cards are a major concern for you, so we will keep the pressure on to make sure that big corporations treat small businesses fairly and transparently.

Lower fees

After years of negotiation, Visa and Mastercard announced the first-ever reduction in the interchange fees to accept credit cards, and a freeze the average rate for an additional five years. The lower fees were implemented in April 2015.

  • Savings for Visa
    • Regular (Classic, Gold, Platinum): 7.8% savings
    • Infinite: 7.5% savings
    • Infinite Privilege: 7.6% savings
  • Savings for Mastercard
    • Regular (Core): 6.3%
    • World: 11.5%
    • World Elite: 5.8%

Note: These rates are for electronic, in-person transactions or swiped transactions for the majority of small and medium-sized businesses. Mastercard announced a lower rate category for 24 types of independent businesses, including restaurants and variety stores.

CFIB played a key part in this announcement. We spent years calling on the federal government, the credit card companies and the banks to address this significant cost. This happened due to the support of small business owners from coast to coast.

For small businesses in Canada, this announcement effectively put an end to the regular fee hikes and ever-higher levels of premium cards. CFIB then struck an agreement with Mastercard for even lower pricing for its members!

Code of Conduct

Thanks in large part to our work on your behalf, Canada implemented a Code of Conduct for the payment card industry in 2010, and updated it in 2015. The code saved Canada's low-cost debit system and, for the first time ever, provided merchants with some power in their relationship with the credit card industry. Improvements to the Code:

  • Impose limits on automatic contract renewals.
  • Offer coverage for mobile and contactless payment processing.
  • Ensure rate reductions are passed on to small businesses.

The Code's effectiveness has already been tested several times and it has passed every time. CFIB and its members have used the Code to resolve issues on exit penalties for fee changes in processing agreements, debit cards for e-commerce, and better disclosure in contracts and statements.

We work closely with the government and agencies like the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) to ensure the Code of Conduct achieves its main objective, which is to protect consumers and merchants.

The power to charge more on premium cards

In June 2017, Visa and Mastercard announced that they would allow merchants to apply some surcharges to credit card transactions at some point before the end of 2018 (date to be confirmed). This comes after years of CFIB calling for the industry to let you address rising costs.

Full details are not yet available, but we expect you will be able to:

  • Apply a charge of up to 2.5% or the cost of accepting the card;
  • Apply the charge on either brand, or just higher-cost premium cards.

If you choose to apply surcharges, you will need to:

  • Notify your card processor;
  • Tell your customers at the point of sale and on receipts.

We recognize that most merchants will not add credit card surcharges, because they do not want to risk losing the sale or customer.

However, the power to surcharge is important as it will allow merchants, individually and collectively, to push back if the industry tries to implement more fee hikes. Also, in some industries (such as B2B enterprises), a credit card surcharge may be helpful in responding to a request to put a large purchase on a card.

How to save

To get the most out of our fight for credit-card fairness:


Here to help

The Code of Conduct gives you more power when dealing with payment processors—but it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be treated well all the time.

CFIB’s business counsellors have resources you can consult if you’re having problems dealing with credit cards:

  • Choosing a payment processor
  • Your rights and responsibilities as a merchant
  • How to cut costs with Interac