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Credit card transaction costs sky-rocket for municipal governments

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Ten major BC municipalities pay nearly $5 million to process credit cards each year

Vancouver, May 17, 2016 – New research by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) show that BC municipalities are paying millions of dollars to process credit cards. According to data gathered through a series of Freedom of Information requests, ten of BC’s biggest municipal governments paid nearly five million dollars in transaction fees in 2015.

And those expenses have continued to rise – between 2010 and 2015, credit card processing costs for those 10 municipalities were up 54 per cent, totaling more than $22 million.

The municipalities analyzed are: Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, City of North Vancouver, City of Vancouver, Richmond, Victoria, Prince George, Nanaimo and Surrey. The City of Vancouver pays the most in fees, at over $2 million in 2015, while the City of North Vancouver saw the biggest increase, up 122 per cent over the past six years.

“While municipalities need to provide residents and local businesses the convenience of using credit cards to pay for services, they also need to be aware of the rising cost and look for ways to control and reduce those expenses,” said Richard Truscott, CFIB vice-president for BC and Alberta. “Municipalities should explore promoting debit as a lower cost payment option, and band together to negotiate better rates with the credit card processing companies.”

Most entrepreneurs are fully aware of the cost of credit cards and take action to minimize them for their own business. In fact, those rising costs has led CFIB to negotiate and offer discounted rates to its 109,000 small business members across Canada. A similar opportunity exists for municipal governments to work together to reduce the rising cost of credit card processing.

Perhaps most concerning is some municipalities contacted did not have the credit card transaction fee data readily available. For instance, when CFIB originally requested the cost information from the City of Kelowna through Freedom of Information, city staff said it would require 23 hours to collect it at a fee of $850. “It is alarming that certain municipalities were unable to readily produce the data. It is virtually impossible for governments to control costs when they are in the dark about what those costs are and how quickly they are adding up”, concluded Truscott.  

To ensure municipalities are minimizing the costs of credit card transaction fees, CFIB has the following recommendations: 

  • Educate taxpayers about the impact of credit card fees on municipal operating costs and encourage debit payments at point of sale;
     
  • Conduct regular reviews about which credit card payment processing companies offer the best rates;
     
  • Track and regularly report data on the number of transactions, transaction fees, rates and type of credit card used (i.e. premium versus regular);
     
  • Work with other municipalities to negotiate a lower group processing rate with credit card processing companies.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Richard Truscott, Vice-President for BC and Alberta, please call 604-684-5325.

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region, including 10,000 in B.C.