A $3 billion settlement between credit card companies and retailers has resulted in significant reductions in debit-card rewards benefits nationwide.
The settlement came from a 1996 lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart and other retailers, who were being forced to pay higher fees when debit card customers used their cards as credit cards. Under the settlement, the fee that the card associations receive from merchants when customers used the Visa and MasterCard signature system was lowered by one-third, making the process far less lucrative to the banks.
As a result, many U.S. banks simply stopped marketing their debit card rewards programs.
Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank has bucked the trend somewhat, however. Though its cash rebate program has been reduced from $1 to 25 cents for every $100 in purchases, it has added a number of other incentive options, including Northwest WorldPerks miles.
The end result is promising for mileage-earners. While some banks have withdrawn from debit cards rewards programs entirely, those who remain show no signs of decreasing the mileage-earning power of their products.