Column: Congress must protect swipe fee reform

Rita Turner

Each day, nearly 1,000 Michiganians walk into one of my two 7-Eleven stores. My stores are at the heart of our communities. We have almost 40 employees.

So many issues in Washington impact how small busines owners operate. Politicians talk about helping us, but we rarely see results. But on one issue, 7-Eleven franchisees mobilized and succeeded: Republicans and Democrats came together to put small business owners first.

Most of my customers pay with a debit card. On each transaction, banks charge retailers, and ultimately consumers, a processing fee. Before reform, the fees franchisees like me paid to banks for debit card transactions had ballooned to one of our highest expenses after labor and the cost of goods. Especially on small purchases of drinks and snacks — 7-Eleven’s specialty — the biggest banks were making more off their business than we were.

Small business owners were frustrated with continuously rising swipe fees. 7-Eleven franchisees gathered over three million signatures, one of the largest petition drives in history, and met with representatives to tell them how out-of-control swipe fees hurt their business and what they could do to help. Congress passed the Durbin Amendment with bipartisan support in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform. As a result, the average swipe fee for a debit card transaction has gone from 43 cents to 24 cents.

Across the country, retailers saved $8.5 billion just in the first year of reforms — $5.8 billion of which was passed on to consumers. Putting these savings back into the economy has supported 37,000 jobs and helped keep prices low. For me, swipe fee reform has saved my business $4,800 a year, which has allowed me to retain employees, give raises, and give back to the community.

But now some in Congress want to repeal swipe fee reform. This week Congressman Mike Bishop, who represents the district my stores are in, will vote on the CHOICE Act, which would repeal debit card swipe fee reform. Thousands of small business owners need Bishop to put us first. Swipe fee reform isn’t just about 7-Eleven franchisees like me, but every small business that hires from within our neighborhoods and supports our communities.

Rita Turner owns and operates two 7-Eleven stores in Livingston County.