MONTREAL – Walmart’s threat to ban the use of Visa cards at its Canadian stores gets underway today in the northwestern Ontario city of Thunder Bay.
After months of negotiations, the retailing giant is eliminating Visa as a payment option at three stores in Thunder Bay, vowing to roll it out to its 400 locations in Canada.
Walmart hasn’t disclosed when that rollout will begin.
Despite the impasse, Walmart says it remains optimistic that an agreement will eventually be reached with Canada’s largest credit card company.
Visa, meantime, says it will do everything “reasonable” to ensure Canadians can use their Visa cards everywhere they want to shop, including at Walmart stores.
Visa last month accused Walmart of using consumers as pawns in its battle over merchant fees with its threat to ban the popular credit card.
Walmart says it pays more than $100 million in fees annually for customers using credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and Discover.
Visa defended itself, saying it offered Walmart one of the lowest rates of any merchant in Canada. But it said the world’s largest retailer wanted more — costs that would be lower than local groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores, charities and schools.
The Retail Council of Canada has called on the federal government to intervene to mandate lower fees for all merchants.
A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he’s waiting to receive a report on a 2014 voluntary 10 per cent fee reduction by Visa and Mastercard before deciding “how we can ensure this market stays competitive in the future.”
A recent poll suggested Walmart was winning the public relations battle with Visa — but with a potential cost.
Nearly 60 per cent of respondents to an Angus Reid Institute poll said they sided with Walmart, but nearly half of shoppers who used Visa at Walmart in the past year said they would be less likely to shop there if the card was no longer accepted in Canadian stores.
Two-thirds of respondents to the survey of 1,527 Canadians conducted earlier this month also said any savings from a cut in Visa fees would line Walmart’s pockets rather than being passed on to customers.