What are interchange fees? Interchange fees explained

June 29, 2022

What is an interchange fee?

Want to understand what interchange fees are and how they are calculated? This article will explain how they work, the various costs related to card payments, regulations, and different pricing models for your business.

Interchange fees definition

An interchange fee is the charge a business has to pay whenever their customer makes a payment to them using a credit or debit card. It is paid to the customer’s issuing bank – or the bank that issued the card to the customer – to cover different costs, including the fee for handling the transaction and managing financial processes and risks.

How do interchange fees work?

Every time a customer buys something using a card, the acquirer – or the bank or financial institute which acquires funds for a business from their customer – pays the issuing bank an interchange fee. The business then pays that charge back to the acquirer as part of its overall processing fees.

If you’re running a business, processing card payments usually means paying various fees. The three main types are:

  • Interchange fee: This is the charge the cardholder’s issuing bank adds to cover costs.
  • Card scheme fee: This is the fee the card scheme charges for the use of its network.
  • Acquirer/PSP fee: This is the fee the acquirer charges you for acquiring the funds from your customers.

To accept card payments, an acquirer should be licensed by the corresponding card networks and either partner with a payment service provider (PSP) or be a PSP.

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How are interchange fees calculated?

The interchange fee amount can vary depending on a variety of factors, which include:

  • The type of transaction (card-present, card-not-present, online payments, POS payments)
  • The industry your business operates in
  • The type of card used (debit, credit, commercial, etc.)
  • Countries involved in transaction (cross-border, domestic, etc.)

It is usually calculated as a percentage of each transaction. If you’re using a PSP, they will usually bundle the range of fees associated with processing card payments into one amount.

Interchange fees are the biggest part of the cost you will have to pay for processing transactions, usually comprising around 70% to 85% of the total fees.

How much are interchange fees?

As a general rule, for consumer card transactions within the European Economic Area (EEA) interchange fees are capped at:

  • 0.3% of the transaction for credit cards
  • 0.2% of the transaction for debit cards

To keep up to date with the current rates you can visit the specific card scheme’s website. Here you’ll find the latest information for the Visa and Mastercard European interchange rates:

Some card networks, such as American Express, don’t publish their rates online due to how they work.

Interchange fees regulation

Until recently, it wasn’t easy for people to find out how interchange rates were set and calculated. In Europe, that changed with the introduction of the European Economic Area–wide Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR) in 2015.

By lowering interchange fees, the IFR aimed to reduce consumer transaction costs and promote competition in the financial sector. It also helped to remove barriers and restrictions on cross-border acquiring. Today, interchange fees in the EEA are some of the lowest worldwide and are capped for consumer cards across the region.

The UK was subject to the IFR regulation, but due to Brexit this has now changed.The UK IFR now regulates the region’s interchange fees and rates.

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Pricing models for card transactions

Now that you know more about the costs associated with processing card transactions let’s look at the different pricing structures for businesses. Two types are most commonly used for this, which are Interchange++ and blended pricing.

Interchange++ (or Interchange Plus Plus)

With this pricing, you get a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with processing card transactions (acquirer/PSP fee, card scheme fee, interchange fee). That means you know exactly how much more than the interchange rate you’re paying for each transaction.

Some businesses prefer this model as it helps them quickly understand the actual cost of processing their card payments. Still, it can be complex for reconciliation purposes and to operate effectively without the right accounting tools. Larger enterprise companies often use it.

Blended pricing

The Blended pricing model means you pay a collective fee for a transaction, regardless of the type. With this pricing model, you only see one cost rather than a breakdown of the individual charges (card interchange fees, acquirer fees, etc.)

Using the blended pricing model makes it easy to understand what you will pay for each transaction, but not what the breakdown of costs is. It can be a valuable way for businesses with consistent transactions to know the exact rate they’ll pay for each transaction.

Many SMEs prefer to use this system as it does not require complex reconciliation and helps protect them from any unexpected increases in card scheme or interchange charges.

You can see how an example of how each type could work below.

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Effortless payments with Mollie

Here at Mollie, we provide an effortless payments solution to help you accept more than 25 leading payment methods and offer a conversion-optimised checkout to your shoppers, as well as a range of powerful integrations for your business and other benefits to improve what you do. What’s best is we offer all this with transparent pricing, no hidden fees, and no lock-in contract.

Find out more about payments with Mollie, or discover more tips to help you grow your business.