WAL-MART CUTS INTERLINK DEBIT CARDS

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores said last week that next month it will stop accepting debit payments made with debit cards from Interlink, a subsidiary of Visa International, San Francisco, because of a 125% increase in transaction fees.an outrageous action by Interlink and Visa," said Mike Cook, assistant treasurer at Wal-Mart Stores. "This is a hidden tax on consumers that ultimately will result

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores said last week that next month it will stop accepting debit payments made with debit cards from Interlink, a subsidiary of Visa International, San Francisco, because of a 125% increase in transaction fees.

an outrageous action by Interlink and Visa," said Mike Cook, assistant treasurer at Wal-Mart Stores. "This is a hidden tax on consumers that ultimately will result in higher prices for retail goods. As America's everyday low-price leader, Wal-Mart cannot go along with this." Less than 10% of Wal-Mart's total debit-card business is handled by the Interlink network, he noted.

Visa executives did not return calls for comment.

Wal-Mart said it will continue to accept other PIN-based debit cards such as Star, Pulse, NYCE and AFFN, and the retailer will not change its policies on standard credit card transactions.

According to Cook, Visa offered to pay Wal-Mart as much as $32 million in incentive payments if the company would accept the increased transaction fees. Wal-Mart rejected the offer "because it is not in the best interests of our customers," he said.

"We sincerely regret any inconvenience to our customers as a result of this," said Cook. "We realize it means some customers will have to use other forms of payment, and some may choose to change their debit-card providers as a result." Wal-Mart handles more than 350 million individual customer transactions annually through PIN-based debit transactions, he said.