Retailers, Not Consumers, Swipe Victory in Credit Card Fee Settlement

Retailers win on swipe fees. Those paying with plastic might feel the pinch.

Add seven swans, six geese and five golden rings to the list of Christmas gifts that cost more than they did a year ago.

Add seven swans, six geese and five golden rings to the list of Christmas gifts that cost more than they did a year ago.

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[Read: Credit Spigot Opening Up for Subprime Auto Borrowers.]

One good thing for credit card users? The settlement requires retailers to inform consumers of any surcharges they levy and prohibits them from adding more or less of a surcharge based on the credit card brand.

Retailers. Merchants came out the real winners in the settlement. Not only do they get a temporary break on the fees they have to pay to process credit cards, they get billions of dollars from banks and credit card companies, plus the ability to collectively bargain to set swipe fees. Currently, swipe fees vary widely and are set based on the type of merchant and type of card.

Credit card companies. Having agreed to fork over billions of dollars and faced with more regulation, the credit card companies are the obvious losers in this match. One silver lining? The epic seven-year fight between two giant—and powerful—industries is over.

"This has been a long and complex dispute," Wexler says. "That part is done. Both parties got together, negotiated, and came to a solution everybody could agree on."

Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at mhandley@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter.