Are Malaysian Debit Card charges set to rise?

Banks in the US are considering passing on swipe fee charges to debit card holders. Would you still use your debit card if the same thing happened here?


Credit cards are one of the best tools to
manage a person’s personal finance. However, not everyone is eligible for a
credit card or might prefer not get into debt. The next best thing is a debit card, which essentially offers similar features minus the risk of overspending.

Unlike credit cards, debit cards in
Malaysia also have the benefit of not being tied to many types of fees and
charges. There are neither annual fees nor penalty charges, as they are linked
to your bank account and how much money you have available in it.

However, recent changes in the US suggest
that consumers may be charged a fee each time we make a transaction with our
debit card. The Malay Mail reported that a recent US court ruling now allows merchants to pass swipe fees onto their customers.

Previously, merchants were required to
absorb fees imposed by banks under agreements with credit card platform
operators Visa and Mastercard. But ever since these agreements were overruled
last year consumers in the US have begun to experience extra charges on their
debit card transactions, charges that
can be anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5 percent.

For now the situation has yet to reach our
shores, and the
matter has gone on appeal
just a few days ago in the US but should
merchants be allowed to pass on fees to the consumer – would anyone still want
to use a debit card if they did?

a follow up report in the Malay Mail, consumer groups such as FOMCA (Federation
of Malaysian Consumers Associations) and Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association
were undoubtedly against such a ruling being implemented here. They felt that
charging a transaction fee would burden consumers and one source even likened
the idea to ‘highway robbery’. It is essentially charging customers to use
their own money.

Though Bank Negara has neither confirmed
nor speculated on the possibility of such fees on the whole it would be safe to
assume that such a move would not only be a burden to Malaysians, but might
also serve to discourage the use of debit cards, thus hindering Bank Negara’s
efforts to reduce credit card debt.

These are just some of the benefits of
debit cards which will be lost to consumers should banks start discouraging
debit card use:

  • Debit cards are a safer
    alternative compared to cash. They also double as ATM cards and can be used to
    withdraw cash for emergencies.
  • Debit cards offer more
    convenient payment methods such as online transactions. Many utility bills
    these prefer payments via internet banking and standing instructions.
  • Debit cards help you control
    your spending as you cannot spend more than what is available in your bank
  • Debit cards offer special
    benefits such as merchant related discounts and reward points.
  • Debit cards are not restricted
    by the holder’s income or age. Unlike credit cards, debit cards are more
    accessible as long as the holder has enough funds to fulfill their transaction
    and can be issued to valid customers as young as 12 years-old.

The debit card is an important financial management
tool that enables a person to manage spending and payment without fear of
racking up interest charges. If merchants insist on passing on their
swipe fees onto consumers it would force them to resort to cash transactions
which runs wholly against to the government’s vision of a cashless society.


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