Last year, two amendments were filed to the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that, if enacted, would have excessively regulated the market for credit cards. The first amendment was an identical version of the Credit Card Competition Act. The second amendment would have required the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Treasury to submit an unnecessary and redundant report to Congress on the user fees charged on credit and debit transactions at commissary stores and morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) facilities for veterans and their caregivers. This amendment was a Trojan horse for additional regulations to the credit card market.
Fortunately, neither amendment was accepted into the NDAA because they failed to be germane to real defense provisions that benefited America’s armed forces.
ATR anticipates that both of these pieces of legislation will be refiled as amendments to the FY 2024 NDAA. ATR continues to oppose both amendments and any other amendments that would hand the federal government more regulatory authority over the credit card market.
Last year, ATR and a large coalition of free-market organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing these amendments. For more information on why these amendments should be opposed, please read last year’s letter here or below:
Dear Member of Congress:
We, the undersigned organizations, oppose the inaccurately named Credit Card Competition Act of 2022 (S. 4674) as filed as Senate amendment 6201 to the substitute amendment (SA 5499) proposed to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (H.R. 7900). The amendment is a backdoor price control, and extension and expansion of the Durbin amendment as enacted in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203).
As written, the amendment directs the Federal Reserve to draft rules requiring credit cards issued in the United States to offer at least two unaffiliated payment network options for point-of-sale and online transactions.
According to the amendment, the two networks may not both be Visa and Mastercard, because they “hold the 2 largest market shares with respect to the number of credit cards issued in the United States.” However, should market share switch hands to new firms, the routing mandates will no longer apply. The amendment also mandates that the proprietary security of the credit cards function so that all networks are available for retailers to pick and choose—consumers get no say whatsoever. In fact, the amendment never mentions consumers, nor how they will benefit.
It is abundantly clear that special interest groups are using the federal government to alter the credit card market to benefit themselves and not consumers. This is textbook rent seeking behavior, anathema to free market principles, and should be staunchly opposed by Republican lawmakers.
Furthermore, we oppose Senate amendment 6201 for the following reasons:
- The amendment does not promote competition, instead it dramatically expands the role of the federal government to overregulate the market for credit cards. Today, requiring multiple dual-message networks to function over one card is technologically infeasible. The cost of overhauling our current credit system to comply with the mandates in the amendment could cost up to $5 billion.
- The mandates in the amendment are so costly that more than $60 billion in rewards that consumers receive every year would largely disappear. According to the International Center for Law & Economics, “86% of credit cardholders have active rewards cards, including 77% of cardholders with a household income of less than $50,000.”
- The amendment authorizes the federal government to intervene in contracts between private parties. The federal government should not be interfering in private contractual agreements. This encroachment will force small banks and credit unions to severely limit or cease providing co-branded cards that millions of consumers use every day. This is similar to how Biden’s Securities and Exchange Commission is attempting to dictate provisions of contracts between private fund advisers and investors.
- There is no evidence that this amendment will pass savings down to consumers. A report from the Government Accountability Office stated that if the regulations in the Durbin amendment “had not been implemented, 65 percent of noninterest checking accounts offered by covered banks would have been free.” Since the enactment of the Durbin amendment, about 22% of retailers have raised prices on consumers while only 1% lowered prices. Additional regulation on credit interchange will affect fees and interest in the credit market, thus increasing costs for consumers.
- Because the amendment forces credit cards to allow access to all networks, proprietary technology will be exposed to competing networks, destroying incentives to create new and innovative fraud protection and cybersecurity. As one paper points out, the routing mandates “largely undermine the economics of networks and issuers.”
- The amendment is a perfect example of Congress ceding its Article I authority to the Federal Reserve. All the provisions of this amendment require the Federal Reserve to draft rules to carry out its mandates.
We also oppose the inclusion of Senate amendment 6174. The amendment requires the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Treasury to submit an unnecessary and redundant report to Congress on the user fees charged on credit and debit transactions at commissary stores and morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) facilities for veterans and their caregivers. This amendment is a Trojan horse for additional regulations to the credit card market.
We oppose Senate amendment 6174 for the following reasons:
- The amendment is unnecessary and redundant because the Department of Defense, in consultation with the Treasury Department, is already conducting the oversight required in the amendment. The implementing regulations state that “On a periodic basis, the Department plans to review with Treasury actual costs incurred by the Treasury on credit card and debit card use by individuals who are eligible solely under the statute and adjust corresponding user fees as necessary.”
- The amendment is a political ploy to justify the eventual adoption of additional credit card regulations.
- The amendment makes no considerations for consumer savings, and targets banks, credit unions, and payment card networks for future regulation. The analysis in the implementing regulations already considers the savings commissary shoppers will enjoy.
Based on the points made above, we oppose Senate amendments 6201 and 6174. We encourage all lawmakers to oppose these amendments.
Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform
Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks
Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
Eli Lehrer, President, R Street Institute
Steve Pociask, President / CEO, American Consumer Institute
Heather R. Higgins, CEO, Independent Women’s Voice
Jeffrey Mazzella, President, Center for Individual Freedom
Pete Sepp, President, National Taxpayers Union
David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Phil Kerpen, President, American Commitment
James Taylor, President, The Heartland Institute
Brent Wm. Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity
John Berlau, Director of Finance Policy, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Ryan Ellis, President, Center for a Free Economy
Ashley Baker, Director of Public Policy, The Committee for Justice
James Erwin, Executive Director, Digital Liberty
Paul Gessing, President, Rio Grande Foundation
Gregg Keller, President, Missouri Century Foundation
Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director, Consumer Choice Center
Bryan Bashur, Executive Director, Shareholder Advocacy Forum
Gerard Scimeca, Chairman, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy
Andrew Langer, President, Institute for Liberty
Jessica Anderson, Executive Director, Heritage Action for America
Tim Jones, Fmr. Speaker, Missouri House, Chairman, Missouri Center-Right Coalition
Douglas Carswell, President & CEO, Mississippi Center for Public Policy
Brian Balfour, Senior Vice President of Research, The John Locke Foundation
Bethany Marcum, CEO, Alaska Policy Forum
Adam Schwemley, Board of Directors, Alaskans for Tax Reform
Chris Nelson, Board of Directors, Alaskans for Tax Reform
Wiley Brooks, Alaska Constituent
Peter D. Brown, Alaska Constituent
Glen Biegel, Alaska Constituent
Forrest Nabors, Alaska Constituent
Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director, North Dakota Watchdog Network