January 6, 2017
By John Stewart
One of the most intense battles yet seen over card-acceptance costs is over. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced late Thursday it has ended its ban on Visa Inc. cards at 19 Canadian stores as of Friday.
“We have come to an agreement with Visa which allows us to continue offering Visa as a form of payment in our (Canadian) stores. Customers in Manitoba [province] and Thunder Bay, Ontario, will be able to use their Visa credit card starting Jan. 6, 2017,” Wal-Mart says in a terse statement posted on its Canadian Web site. A Walmart Canada spokesperson tells Digital Transactions News the company will say nothing more about the issue, leaving unclear whether Visa has made any concessions to the retailing giant.
Simultaneously, Toronto-based Visa Canada issued the following statement: “Visa cardholders can once again use their Visa credit cards as a form of payment in all Walmart stores across Canada. We have come to an agreement with Walmart through which Visa credit cards will be accepted at all Canadian Walmart stores, including in Manitoba and Thunder Bay, Ontario, starting on Friday, Jan. 6.”
Wal-Mart, which has for years protested the cost of accepting major-brand credit and debit cards, began banning Visa last summer at three stores in Thunder Bay. In October, it followed up by kicking Visa out of 16 more stores in Manitoba, and threatened to ultimately ban the cards at all of its more than 400 Canadian outlets.
The chain said at one point during the dispute that it paid more than $76 million (U.S.) annually to accept all credit cards in Canada. The company has not broken out its acceptance cost for Visa cards specifically. During the Visa ban, the 19 stores continued to accept other brands, including American Express, Discover, and Mastercard, as well as the Interac debit card.
Hoping to put pressure on Visa, Wal-Mart at the start of the ban said it would roll it out in phases across Canada. But Visa also deployed tactics to pressure Wal-Mart. When the Thunder Bay ban started, Visa began running a multichannel ad campaign promoting its brand and pointing to its acceptance at various businesses in the city. It also began offering promotions, including Visa e-gift cards, to encourage spending at local grocery stores. A major seller of groceries in the U.S., Wal-Mart has been trying to boost its share of that market in Canada.--With additional reporting by Jim Daly
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