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Amazon vs. Visa

Hey y’all, this is Jenny Surane. I write about banking and payments for Bloomberg News in New York. This week, Amazon escalated its feud wit
Amazon vs. Visa 2

Hey y’all, this is Jenny Surane. I write about banking and payments for Bloomberg News in New York. This week, Amazon escalated its feud with Visa. But first:

Today’s top tech news:

  • Xbox is evaluating its relationship with Activision Blizzard after this week’s revelations about its CEO
  • Apple pushed back its return-to-office deadline to Feb. 1
  • A group of crypto investors failed to buy a first printing of the U.S. Constitution 

    Fees face-off 

    The battle between the world’s largest e-commerce company and the world’s largest payments network started quietly.

    It began in Singapore, where in September Amazon.com Inc. started adding a small surcharge to any purchases made with a Visa Inc. credit card, citing “Visa’s high cost of payments.” The company soon began passing along the extra fee to customers in Australia as well. This week, Amazon upped the ante: The e-commerce giant announced it will ban Visa’s cards in the U.K. starting next year

    “We believe the cost of accepting credit-card payments should be going down over time to allow merchants to reinvest savings into low prices and shopping enhancements for customers,” Amazon said in an emailed statement. “Yet despite technical advancements, some cards’ cost of payments continue to stay high or even rise.” Visa, for its part, said it is “very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future. When consumer choice is limited, nobody wins.”

    Now, there are signs that the feud is making its way to the U.S., too. Amazon in recent weeks has announced deals with PayPal Holdings Inc.’s Venmo and Affirm Inc. that will give U.S. shoppers another way to avoid Visa. The retailer is also considering shifting its popular co-brand credit card to Mastercard Inc. amid the simmering tensions. 

    In some ways, the fight is nothing new. Retailers have long balked at the fees they’re forced to pay each time a consumer swipes a card at checkout. While it can amount to just pennies per purchase, that adds up: Merchants in the U.S. spent $110 billion in card-processing fees last year alone. 

    Most consumers have little idea that these costs exist or how much they amount to, even though retailers say they’re responsible for higher prices on many everyday goods. They’re also a big part of the credit-card company business model. In the U.S., it’s often these swipe fees that help bankroll popular premium credit-card rewards and fraud protections.

    With its latest move, Amazon is taking a page from the likes of its rivals Walmart Inc. and Kroger Co., both of which have temporarily instituted similar bans on Visa cards. For now, most analysts believe Visa will be able to reach a truce with Amazon, as it has done with Walmart and Kroger in the past.

    “We expect Visa and Amazon to reach a U.K. deal as customer choice and ubiquity are paramount,” Dominick Gabriele, an analyst at Oppenheimer, said in a note to clients. Still, he added, “we remain cautious.” —Jennifer Surane

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    If you read one thing

    The Cupertino car feels closer. Apple is said to be pushing to accelerate the development of its electric car and is refocusing the project around full self-driving capabilities, aiming to solve a technical challenge that has bedeviled the auto industry. 

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    Here’s what you need to know

    A group of U.S. state attorneys general are investigating Instagram over its efforts to engage young people. 

    Scarred by supply constraints, General Motors will co-develop its own chips

    Bitdeer, a Singapore-based Bitcoin mining company controlled by Chinese billionaire Jihan Wu, plans to go public via a SPAC deal estimated to be worth $4 billion. 

    Big tech pushed the S&P 500 to its 66th all-time high this year.

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