swipe-fees.jpgIf you're a merchant tired of high debit- and credit-card fees, now's your chance to make a difference. The financial-reform bill slowly wending its way through Congress is coming into the home stretch, and swipe-fee reform has made it through to the version now being reconciled by a joint Senate-House committee.

The National Retail Federation is trying to put on a full-court press of lobbying by small business owners to keep the provision -- known as the Durbin amendment -- in the bill and try to eliminate an estimated $20 billion in merchant fees annually. So if you care about this issue, call your legislator immediately -- the commitee intends to have the bill ready for a final vote June 24.

Banks and major credit-card issuers have been making a mint off swipe fees for ages, even though the administrative effort required on their part for accepting an electronic card swipe is actually less than the work of clearing a check.

Because Europe recently passed similar swipe-fee reform, if we don't follow suit, the forecast is for even higher fees here as the financial-services firms look to make up their lost revenue from overseas. Without federal reform, merchants will have to rely on a patchwork of state laws limiting interchange fees, such as Vermont recently passed.

The days when a merchant loses money if a customers wants to buy a pack of gum with a debit card could be drawing to a close here. If you're in favor, time to speak out.