Walmart makes good on pledge to ban Visa cards

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - DOUG ALEXAN­DER Bloomberg

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. can no longer count Mar­lene Gosparini and her em­ployer as reg­u­lar cus­tomers in Thun­der Bay af­ter the world’s largest re­tailer stopped ac­cept­ing Visa credit cards at its three stores in the On­tario city.

“I’m not too happy about it,” Gosparini said Monday as she lugged five plas­tic bags filled with sup­plies across the street from the city’s old­est Walmart store to Truck & Diesel Hy­draulics, where she works in ship­ping and re­ceiv­ing. Her em­ployer spends about $500 a month at the re­tailer, and she’ll spend $150 a week on her own, often on Visa, she said.

“We won’t be shop­ping there any­more be­cause we have a com­pany Visa card,” said Gosparini. “And now that we have to go some­where else. I’ll prob­a­bly buy my per­sonal stuff else­where, too.”

Thun­der Bay, a port city of about 120,000 peo­ple on the north­ern shore of Lake Su­pe­rior, is the lat­est bat­tle­ground over credit-card fees for the Ben­tonville, Ark.-based re­tailer. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Cana­dian unit has threat­ened to ex­pel Visa from all 405 of its stores na­tion­wide un­less the net­work agrees to lower the amount it charges for credit-card trans­ac­tions.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pre­pared its Thun­der Bay cus­tomers for the change in June when it posted a state­ment on its web­site. There were signs in stores lead­ing up to the shift, and on Monday store greeters, em­ploy­ees and man­agers ap­proached cus­tomers as they walked in to re­mind them of the change. Some cashiers even of­fered cus­tomers a chance to sign up for a Walmart Mastercard.

“It doesn’t bother me,” said Lea Bostan, a 73-year-old re­tiree and Visa card­holder who echoed the sen­ti­ments of many shop­pers. “I come here all the time. I’ll still come here but I’ll just use cash.”

Visa “re­mains com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing rea­son­able to en­sure Cana­di­ans can use their Visa cards ev­ery­where they wish to shop — in­clud­ing at Walmart stores,” Carla Hind­man, a spokesper­son for San Fran­cisco-based Visa, said in an emailed state­ment. Visa ran ads in Thun­der Bay’s news­pa­per on Monday of­fer­ing card­hold­ers a $25 on­line gift card for mak­ing pur­chases of $75 or more at Thun­der Bay gro­cery stores.

“Un­til an agree­ment can be reached in this com­mer­cial dis­pute, we en­cour­age shop­pers to use their cards at the more than 5,200 stores in Thun­der Bay that ac­cept Visa,” the com­pany said in a state­ment.

Canada has emerged as an arena for early skir­mishes be­tween big re­tail­ers and pay­ments net­works over fees. In Septem­ber 2014, Costco told cus­tomers it would stop ac­cept­ing Amer­i­can Ex­press cards at its Cana­dian stores the fol­low­ing year and switch to Mastercard. Five months later, Amex and Costco an­nounced they planned to end their ex­clu­sive U.S. re­la­tion­ship, as well.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Canada unit, which pays more than $100 mil­lion to ac­cept credit cards an­nu­ally, called the fees Visa charges “un­ac­cept­ably high” in a June 11 state­ment on its web­site. The re­tailer didn’t say what the amount was. Visa re­sponded with a let­ter pub­lished in news­pa­pers ac­cus­ing the re­tail gi­ant of “un­fairly drag­ging mil­lions of Cana­dian con­sumers into the mid­dle of a busi­ness dis­agree­ment that can and should be re­solved” be­tween the com­pa­nies.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been fight­ing for decades to re­duce card fees.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Wal-Mart Inc. stopped ac­cept­ing Visa in Thun­der Bay stores on Monday.

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