In December, the Federal Reserve proposed as part of an overhaul mandated by the Dodd-Frank law capping debt-transaction fees for large banks at 12 cents, down from an average of 44 cents. The proposed limit on debit fees would drain $15.2 billion a year in revenue from the industry, says Robert Hammer, who runs R.K. Hammer, a credit-card consulting firm in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
To make back some of that money, banks are weighing whether to divide debit-card services into components and charging for them separately-known as “unbundling.” For example, if merchants want a guarantee of payment, as approved debit transactions currently offer, that would cost extra. Unbundling would deal a blow to retailers who won a significant victory with the enactment of debit-transaction fee limits. Merchants pay debit transaction fees. They would now pay a fee for the guaranteed payment feature if it is enforced. It isn’t clear if consumers will pay a penalty fee—similar to that on a returned check—for a debit transaction that bounces.
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