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Opinion | Credit Card Competition Act can help alleviate costs for Alabamians

The bill could help lower the cost of everyday goods by decreasing the fees charged every time a credit card is used.

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Alabamians spend among the highest percentage of their incomes on groceries in the U.S. as the cost of basic food items like eggs and produce reach record highs. Households in the state make an average of $75,923 annually and spend an average of $250 a week on food at home — making up over 17 percent of their income, the fifth highest in the country, according to a new Lending Tree report.

While there is little Congress can do to lower food prices in an inflationary environment, Sens. Katie Britt and Tommy Tuberville, R-AL, can support legislation that will alleviate costs for Alabama families and local businesses. One such measure, called the Credit Card Competition Act, will help lower the cost of everyday goods like groceries by decreasing the fees charged every time a credit card is used for a purchase.

Swipe fees, which average 2-3 percent of each credit card transaction, have more than doubled in the last 10 years. In 2022 alone, businesses paid a record $160 billion in swipe fees. For small businesses with slim profit margins, every penny counts, meaning these fees are often passed onto consumers to avoid shuttering. One estimate found the average American family pays more than $1,000 a year in swipe fees, a number that has likely climbed over the last year amid historic inflation. 

Because they are taken as a percentage of each transaction, swipe fees and product prices are inherently correlated. As totals at the checkout counter continue to soar, so does the cost of swipe fees.

In Alabama, inflation has driven up prices on many food items over 50 percent, including chicken legs and thighs, while produce like turnip greens have more than tripled in price from 70 cents a bushel to $1.90, according to a WBRC report. On top of inflation, Alabama is one of three states to tax groceries at the state’s normal sales tax rate of 4 percent. Swipe fees merely add to these exorbitant costs.

But it’s not just grocery or retail stores that are affected. Most charities are charged credit card swipe fees when accepting donations through credit or debit card transactions.

To help lower these fees across the country, Sens. Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Dick Durbin, D-IL, are expected to introduce the Credit Card Competition Act in the coming weeks. As the bill’s name suggests, the measure will increase competition in the industry by requiring banks to provide at least one alternative payment network besides Visa and Mastercard when processing credit card transactions. The two companies currently control 80 percent of the payments marketplace, which has enabled them to indiscriminately raise fees with little-to-no pushback.

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Fortunately, Alabamians have staunch defenders of free market competition in Sens. Tuberville and Britt, who both ran for Senate to ensure Alabama has the best possible seat at the table. This means fighting to pass tangible solutions that will actually solve the current challenges Americans are facing. Currently, affording everyday items like groceries is among those pressing issues. By supporting the Credit Card Competition Act, Sens. Britt and Tuberville can help address this challenge by alleviating strained family budgets.

For the past three decades, Todd Lee has owned and managed the family business with his father, Jimmy Lee – Son’s Supermarket in Jasper, Alabama, founded in 1936, and Son’s of Arley in Arley, Alabama. Lee prioritizes customer and employee satisfaction above all else and is well-known for saying that he doesn’t like to be called a business “owner” because everything on this side of heaven is “on loan” as a gift from God. Lee is active in the community and an advocate for small businesses in Alabama.

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