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    Kwik Trip Joins Petition Brigade Against Card Fees

    Convenience store chain looks to customers to help pressure Congress.

    WATERLOO, Wis. -- Kwik Trip, based in La Crosse, Wis., became the latest chain of convenience stores to ask its customers join their fight against credit and debit card fees.

    The c-store chain is gathering signatures on petitions at many of its more than 350 locations to pressure lawmakers into examining interchange fees, according to a report by the Cedar Valley Courier.
    "Our goal is to get as many signatures as possible," Kwik Trip spokesman John McHugh said in the report.

    Kwik Trip's effort was applauded by Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the Alexandria, Va.-based NACS, who said the weight of customer support is the c-store association's best asset to influence legislation to lower the fees.

    "Our expectation is we can get this on a legislative agenda," said Lenard.

    Bills have been drafted in Congress that would allow merchants negotiate payment fees.

    "Right now it's take it or leave it," Lenard told the Courier. "And it's hard to leave it when credit and debit cards are such a big part of people's lives."

    Fees to process debit and credit transactions average 2 percent in the U.S., according to various tracking sources including Nielsen Tracking. In Europe, cross-border transactions carry less than a one-third of one percent fee, according to the report.

    Transaction fees, though, vary based on the kind of transaction. Jim Lind, owner of Jim Lind BP, told the Courier he pays fees ranging between 2 percent and 8 percent of transactions. Debit transactions, in which the cardholder signs for the purchase instead of using a PIN, are higher. Stores pay cardholders' banks an average of 75 cents for every $100 spent in that way, according to the report.
    The largest convenience store chain, 7-Eleven, has already presented Congress with a petition containing more than 1.6 million customer signatures against unfair card fees.
    "There isn't a retailer who wouldn't want it changed," said McHugh of Kwik Trip.

    Lenard also pointed out the timing may finally be right to get action on the issue, noting that banks aren't very popular on Capitol Hill or in much of the country. News about seven- and eight-figure bonuses for executives hasn't done much to help the industry's reputation.
    Critics of the effort have said convenience stores are just looking to increase their profits by not paying their fair share of the transaction fees, but Lenard countered that customers would be the first to notice if the fees are lowered -- especially at gas stations.

    "There is no business more competitive than the gasoline business," he said, adding that retailers look for an edge by fractions of a penny per gallon. Even at 2 percent, fees add up to about a nickle per gallon of gas.

    "When retailers sell a gallon of gas, the banks get more money than the retailer," claimed Lenard.

    Some stores offer up to a 5-cents-per-gallon discount to customers paying with cash. That discount, or near the amount, could become permanent if legislation limits the fees, Lenard told the Courier.

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