Walmart makes good on pledge to ban Visa cards
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.
Wal-Mart Inc. stopped accepting Visa in Thunder Bay stores on Monday.