The Australian executive
team at Visa International has quite a sense of humour.

Visa is prone to lament
Reserve Bank initiatives to curb credit card transactions and it arranged for a
telephone survey in May of 400 holders of credit and charge cards. The survey
report released mid last week declares that RBA initiatives are making credit
cards less attractive to card holders – higher fees for cards; lower rewards for
card purchases; and, would you believe, instances of surcharging suggesting glimmers
of retailer resistance. A well advised community would applaud such revelations.

Nonetheless,
ever ready to press the spin cycle, Visa chose to emphasise that those
“hit hardest” included “families with children; housing borrowers;
those under financial pressure; women and low income households” –
plucking all the heartstrings. There was, however, no mention of
low income earners under financial pressure being counselled about using
a credit card.

The impudence of this is
underscored by a companion media release the same day saying that “overall,
Australians are currently using Visa cards to make some one billion transactions
each year while spending some $A125 billion, all up some few percent on a year
earlier”. Perhaps Visa may like to disclose the interchange fees taken from
retailers by Visa card issuers on the one billion transactions so we could join
the chorus of lamentation.

Imagine what the Visa
surveys will be saying if the RBA ever gets its act together and deservedly
relegates credit cards behind fully-functional EFTPOS debit cards linked to
deposit accounts with a line of credit attached. I can hardly
wait.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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