Interchange rates are fees that merchants pay to the banks that issue credit cards for processing payments. These rates vary depending on the type of credit card, the transaction amount, and the merchant’s industry. This article focuses on the credit card type from the basic starter credit card to the exclusive and fancy “black” credit cards.
It is important to note that interchange rates are different for each country. You can see the full list of interchange rates for Canada and the full list of interchange rates for USA or see how interchange rates change by country. Below are the current interchange rates for some common credit card types in the United States.
Tiers of credit cards
There are a lot of credit cards in the market. Something around 23% of adults in the world have a credit card. If you look at USA and Canada, around 80% of adults have a credit card. Depending on a person’s credit rating, an issuing bank will offer different credit cards to people. In general, there are 5 tiers of credit cards.
Starter cards: Starter cards are designed for people with little or no credit history. More exclusive credit cards generally require better credit. Starter credit cards are good for people to build up credit.
No annual fee cards: The second tier of credit cards have no annual fees and might have some rewards like cashback, air miles, or other points. These usually have a lower credit limit up to around $2000.
Mid tier cards: Mid tier credit cards focus on rewards and other perks. Sometimes these cards give perks like free checked baggage, priority boarding, and entertainment deals.
Premium credit cards: Premium cards are basically the highest tiered credit cards you can apply for. Rewards, perks, and status are the reason people get these. Credit limits can exceed $10,000 and even be over $100,000. Consumers who get these cards generally have high salaries and credit ratings.
Invitation only credit cards or “black credit card”: These exclusive credit cards aren’t advertised because you have to be invited. Strong connections or celebrity status will help you get one of these cards. These cards generally have no credit limit and will have the highest interchange rates.
These are the general tiers of credit cards. It’s not always easy to figure out which card you’re actually accepting by looking at the card. However, most cards from the large banks have clear branding.
Credit card types and interchange rates in USA
There are other types of credit cards from networks such as Discover, Diners, China Union Pay, and more. Each of them have different interchange rates per country. However, the all generally follow the credit card market leaders: Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.
Interchange rates are complex. There are hundreds of them. Therefore, the information in the post are simply guidelines. You can go directly to the card brands to get exact rates ,however the documentation is quite complex to navigate. Overall, rates for Visa are around 1.4% to 2.5%, Mastercard are 1.5% to 2.6%, Discover are 1.55% to 2.5%, and American Express are 2.3% to 3.5%.
|Card Tier||Example Card Names||Visa||MasterCard||AMEX|
Mastercard Core Value
1.51% + $0.10
1.43% + $0.10
1.95% + $0.10
No Annual Fee
Mastercard Enhanced Value
1.43% + $0.10
1.53% + $0.10
1.95% + $10.0
1.65% + $0.10
1.66% + $0.10
2.40% + $0.10
MasterCard World Elite
2.05% + $0.10
1.76% + $0.10
2.45% + $0.10
3.15% + $0.10
3.15% + $0.10
3.50% + $0.10
Reminder, these are just example fees that will give you a ballpark understanding of the rates from different tiers of credit cards. These rates also change based on the type of merchant (grocery, high value retail, etc) and how the card is accepted (online, credit card machine, etc).
Best way to lower your interchange rates
As a merchant, interchange rates are a cost of doing business. It’s painful to have that 2%+ of fees, but the service is needed for most merchants. There are a few things you can do to help minimize the credit card processing expense.
The first and easiest thing you can do is work with a reputable payment processor like Clearly Payments. You get fair pricing, transparent fees, and world-class service. They will also set up your merchant account with the right parameters to minimize your interchange fees.
Another thing you can do is optimize your transaction processing. This can be achieved by ensuring that transactions are properly authorized, verifying the identity of customers, and using fraud prevention tools. Interchange rates are lower with more secure transactions. When possible, do in-person transactions.
Lastly, you can also encourage the use of lower-cost payment methods. The lower-cost payment methods are debit cards, electronic checks, or etransfers. You can also offer discounts for customers who pay with cash or checks. This is called surcharging.