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Updated Oct 23, 2023

What Are Interchange Fees?

Learn how interchange fees – or swipe fees – can impact the overall cost of doing business.

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Dock Treece, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
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Editor Reviewed
This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Interchange fees are the costs you pay to your payment processor each time a customer makes a purchase using a credit or debit card. These fees – sometimes referred to as swipe fees – are set by credit card companies, and average about 2% of the transaction amount plus up to a 30 cent flat fee per transaction. 

Interchange fees can impact the overall cost of operating your business, especially in the retail sector – e-commerce, or brick and mortar. Here’s everything you need to understand about interchange fees for processing credit cards; we’ll also review typical swipe fee costs and how to lower your payments. 

Editor’s note: Looking for the right credit card processor for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Interchange fees aren't the only credit card processing fees your business faces. Learn other ways to reduce your overall credit card processing fees.

How do interchange fees work?

When you sign up with a payment processing company, it typically lists its interchange fees. Starting fees are usually expressed as a percentage of a transaction amount – including taxes – plus a flat rate. 

While processing companies often include starting rates for different card issuers, interchange fees vary between companies and are usually set using a series of formulas.

For example, a processor may charge a certain starting rate for cards issued by Discover vs. Capital One. They may also raise costs based on how many transactions you plan to process in a month, the average size of your transactions, whether you’ll be accepting credit cards in person or over the phone, and the industry in which you operate. 

Once you agree to the interchange fees and start processing payments, the processor will deduct interchange fees automatically from all the payments you process and then transfer the resulting balance to your business bank account.

Did You Know?Did you know
There are legal limits to how much payment processors can charge in interchange fees. These limits were instituted by the Durbin Amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

How much are interchange fees?

On average, interchange fees for credit card purchases are around 1.81% of the transaction value. Rates for debit cards are lower – around 0.3%. That said, interchange fees vary based on card issuer, transaction type and your industry. If processors consider your industry high risk – with a high likelihood of fraudulent transactions or chargebacks – then your fees could be markedly higher.

These transactional factors impact interchange fees:

  • Card type: Fees for accepting Visa, for example, are lower than those for American Express, which is partly why not all stores accept Amex.
  • Industry: Some industries – like nightclubs – present a higher risk of fraud or chargebacks, but even churches and philanthropies pay interchange fees on their card transactions.
  • Transaction type: Taking a credit card over the phone is much riskier than in-person transactions, where vendors can verify the cardholder’s identity. Processing fees are thus higher to compensate for this risk.
  • Frequencies: Some card issuers – like Discover – charge different fees for one-time vs. automatic recurring payments.
If you're searching for a credit card processing company, review our list of the best credit card processors that can help you grow your business.

Who charges interchange fees?

Your company’s services provider, also called a payment processor, charges interchange fees. In some cases, this may be a bank or a credit union. Most often, it’s a credit card processing company, such as Stripe, PayPal, or Square (read our Square review). 

Processors charge these fees for verifying a customer’s funds, processing the transaction and protecting your business against loss from fraud.

Who pays interchange fees?

If your organization accepts credit or debit card payments, you must pay interchange fees. Even government agencies pay these fees, including churches and charities. However, these organizations can often negotiate lower credit card processing fees

Every time you process a credit card transaction through the processor, the processing company collects a small fee from that transaction. The fees are deducted automatically from your merchant account before the net sales proceeds are sent to your company’s bank account.

Including Apple Pay as a payment option may result in lower swipe fees because of the measures Apple takes to secure transactions.

How to avoid interchange fees

Some transactions may incur higher transaction fees if they fail to meet the criteria to qualify for lower rates. Follow these tips to reduce or eliminate interchange fees:

  • Don’t accept credit cards. The only way to completely eliminate interchange fees is to only accept cash or checks.
  • Encourage customers to use debit cards. Debit cards charge lower interchange fees than credit cards.
  • Use an address verification service (AVS). AVS reduces the risk of fraud. If your processor knows you’re checking customers’ IDs, you may get charged lower fees. Visa and Mastercard also offer lower interchange rates for merchants who conduct an AVS check on credit card transactions. 
  • Settle transactions as soon as possible. The longer it takes to settle transactions after authorization, the higher the interchange rate.
  • Include customer service information in transactions. Providing as much information as possible on customers’ statements will reduce the amount of chargebacks. This way, the consumer will easily recognize the transaction.
  • Use swipe transactions instead of manual entry. If you require customers to present cards in person instead of over the phone, you’ll lower your total interchange fee costs. 

If you really want to avoid interchange fees, there’s only one way to do it: Don’t accept credit or debit cards. Depending on your industry, not accepting credit cards can hurt your bottom line even more than the fees. 

Interchange fees may be a fact of life for your small business – especially if you sell goods and services to the public, which expects the option of paying by plastic. 

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Dock Treece, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Dock David Treece is a finance expert who has extensively covered business financial topics, including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and alternative lending. He is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at BNY Mellon and the former Editorial Manager at Dotdash. He also previously worked as a financial advisor and registered investment advisor, as well as served on the FINRA Small Firm Advisory Board. Dock brings more than 17 years of experience, including his time as an entrepreneur co-founding and managing a small business. His entrepreneurial background gives him firsthand insight into the challenges small business owners face and the tools and tactics they can use to succeed.
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