The repercussions from the EU changes to interchange fees on credit and charge cards continue to filter through the market.
One way a card issuer can circumvent the 0.3% cap on fees is to issue ‘business’ cards as these are not capped. The reason for this was quoted on ft.com yesterday in an article about Curve:
We are supportive of the exclusion of commercial cards from the interchange cap as they are very important to the UK. Commercial Cards are a very different product compared to consumer cards, offering merchants, cardholders, and companies / governments providing them to their employees / civil servants specific and sophisticated services, which come at a higher cost to issuers. Unlike consumer cards, which compete with cash, commercial cards do not replace cash but traditional invoicing, which is a less efficient, less transparent, and more costly form means of payments. Commercial cards are also important in supporting small businesses as a vehicle for flexible short term financing. Capping interchange fees for Commercial cards would make issuers reconsider their issuance.
How you define a ‘commercial’ card is a complex question of course. Some people I have asked believe that a commercial card will, in future, need to be settled from a business bank account.
(These cards come with generous sign-up bonuses by the way. Gold Business offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points whilst Platinum Business offers 40,000 points.)
Here is the wording sent out:
“We will add new wording to your Agreement to clarify that you and any Supplementary Cardmembers may only use the Card for business purposes. This means that you and any Supplementary Cardmembers must not use the card for personal expenditure.”
There is also another change of the rules which means that supplementary cardholders no longer have any liability for the spending they make. The primary cardholder is solely responsible for settling their bill. I am only guessing, but I assume that this is because Amex has verified that the primary cardholder is ‘in business’ and so can hold a commercial card. If the supplementary cardholder – who would usually be an employee – was liable for their own spending it could be used as evidence that Amex was issuing cards to ‘non business people’.
It isn’t clear whether Amex will deliberately start to close down Gold Business and Platinum Business accounts if it sees large volumes of personal spending going through. They may feel they have no choice if the alternative is to lose their ability to charge a higher interchange fee. At the moment, however, this is a moot point because the cap on interchange fees does not currently apply to Gold and Platinum Amex cards as I understand it.
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