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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Company Aims To Go Beyond Credit Cards

Credit card companies charge businesses 2 to 4 percent of each purchase with a credit card. (tom.arthur/Flickr)

Credit card companies charge businesses 2 to 4 percent of each purchase with a credit card. (tom.arthur/Flickr)

Businesses frustrated by the fees they pay to credit card companies are looking at a European Union proposal that would reduce the swipe fees merchants have to pay every time a customer pays with a card.

Dwolla founder Ben Milne is pictured in the Here & Now studios. (Jill Ryan/Here & Now)

Dwolla founder Ben Milne is pictured in the Here & Now studios. (Jill Ryan/Here & Now)

The EU proposal calls for a cap on the swipe fees of 0.3 percent of the amount charged to a card — far lower than the 2 to 4 percent typically charged now.

According to Roll Call, credit card swipe fees have tripled in the past decade. And entrepreneur Ben Milne says there’s another way.

Milne is founder of the company Dwolla, which offers a digital payment system that could allow stores to bypass the need for credit card networks and pay lower fees.

Interview Highlights

On how Dwolla works

“You just basically pull up your phone, type in a phone number, email address, or if they’re already in the network, you just search their name just like a friend on Facebook. Hit pay, how much, and the money just moves.”

On bringing down the cost

“The fees that come into a credit card system really pay for the infrastructure to support it: All the people that are doing the sales, all the hardware, all the old systems, the fraud protection inside of it. When you just remove all that stuff, when you don’t have to mail anything anymore, you can actually remove a ton of fees just by building a new system. I mean, the internet really just lets us cheat.”

On his experience with credit card fees

“There was a point where [our small business] realized that there was about $55,000 a year in credit card fees that we were paying, and for whatever reason, I couldn’t let that go at the time. And so I guess I looked at that $55,000 for a small business that really only employed 10 to 12 people. That was a new employee so I could take some time off; that was a new product line so the company could make more money. You know, there were so many things that as a small business owner I feel like I could have done with that, and I don’t think I’m alone. I know there are a lot of small business that are getting eaten by the fees.”


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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