The National Restaurant Association has hailed a major victory for restaurants and other merchants with the Senate’s approval of the interchange fee provision in the final financial reform bill. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173) passed 60-39 and President Obama is expected to sign it into law next week.

The bill authorizes the Federal Reserve to issue regulations that ensure interchange fees imposed on debit card transactions are "reasonable and proportional." It will allow merchants to set minimum amounts ($10 or higher per transaction) for credit card usage and offer customers discounts for use of cash, checks and debit cards, directly passing on the savings to consumers.

"Interchange fee reform has long been a priority for the restaurant industry," said Scott DeFife, executive vice president of Policy & Government Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. "Merchants pay about $48 billion in interchange fees every year. For restaurants, interchange fees are often the third greatest operating expense, behind labor and food costs. We are pleased that Congress recognized the need for fairer debit-card interchange fees and more flexibility for merchants in credit-card practices."

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