Recently Mastercard announced a new program that would impose digital wallet operator fees on PayPal, Google Wallet and others. In response to the move, Visa’s CEO Charlie Scharf said that these kinds of fees are “totally appropriate”. Does that mean that Visa is actually planning a similar move? At least as the moment, the answer is no.
According to Visa’s global head of product, Jim McCarthy, the company has no plans to implement a digital wallet fee at this point. But what about Scharf’s comment saying he didn’t think fees were such a bad idea? A Visa spokesman claims that Scharf’s comments are “more about the changing relationship with payment industry participants, rather than the potential for a specific fee.”
Why are card companies considering these kinds of fees, or in Mastercard’s case already implementing them? The big reason is that while digital wallets make the customer’s life easier, it also gets in the card company’s way of collecting data about your purchasing habits. Again, not a bad thing for the customer, but not something that makes the card companies too happy.
If the idea of fees eventually comes to all the card companies, it might make it hard for wallet services to make money of their digital wallet service. In order to bring up their profit margins they might even start imposing their own charges on the customer. Of course it is hard to really say for sure at this point.
At the moment, Mastercard is the only one who has come forward with a plan to charge wallet operators, with both Visa and Discover officially declaring they have no such plans. Again, this could change in a heartbeat as virtual wallet services continue to gain in popularity.