The Green Sheet Online Edition
August 13, 2007 • Issue 07:08:01
Dark cloud shrouds ATM ISOs in Sunshine State
This story was originally published on ATMmarketplace.com, July 12, 2007; reprinted with permission. © 2007 NetWorld Alliance LLC. All rights reserved.
ISOs in Florida are experiencing the agony of
political defeat, and paying a hefty price for it. On
June 28, Florida Gov. Charles Crist vetoed a bill
that would have allowed ATM deployers in the
Sunshine State to surcharge international ATM users.
But for now, international account holders accessing
accounts outside the United States will continue to have
free access to cash, at least in Florida.
Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard Worldwide prohibit surcharging
foreign users, except in states where state law
"expressly" allows the charges.
For ISOs in vacation hot spots like Orlando, Fla., the
veto is a direct hit to those ISOs' bottom lines, industry
"In the Orlando area, it's not unusual to see 40% of transaction
volume coming from international cardholders," said
Glen Lyons, President of Orlando-based The ATM FLA
Lyons would not divulge the number of ATMs he has in
Orlando, but he did say the veto "will have a huge economic
impact" on his business, as well as the businesses
of other ISOs in the state.
"Basically, we're working for free for international cardholders,
and that's not OK with me," he said.
"We all had hopes that this bill was going to make it
through this year, but it ended up morphing into something
"We hope that the politicians or the people at Visa and
MasterCard will realize that it doesn't make sense for
ATM companies in the U.S. to keep giving away their
services for free to foreign visitors."
To Lyons, the regulations seem unfair, especially when
one considers that U.S. cardholders are routinely
charged for ATM transactions they make when traveling
overseas. Even soldiers pulling a tour overseas pay fees
at ATMs, according to the military newspaper Stars
In 2006, Stars and Stripes said that some service personnel
on bases in Germany have paid as much as 2% for bills at
"It definitely doesn't seem fair that Americans have to pay
the fees in other countries, but visitors coming here don't
have to," Lyons said.
"It seems nonsensical to me, and it's costing businesses
like mine a lot of money."
J. Michael "Mickey" Brown, President of First Bank and
Trust of New Orleans and an active member of the ATM
Industry Association, estimates that more than 30% of
Florida's off-premises ATMs are owned by mom-and-pop
operations that lose up to $3,000 a month in fees because
of the lack of an international surcharge.
ATMIA, which spearheaded legislative efforts for an
international surcharge, said it was surprised by Florida's
veto, especially since a similar bill died last year, allegedly
because of unclear wording that was challenged
by Visa and MasterCard. Since then, the wording has
"ATMIA is disappointed in this outcome, to say the least,"
said Lana Harmelink, ATMIA's International Director of
Operations. "We have been fighting for two years to get
Harmelink said Florida's international surcharge bill,
which unanimously passed the House on April 26 and
the Senate (with a vote of 38-1) on May 3, was vetoed
because of a May 3 amendment requested by the Florida
The controversial amendment would have allowed retailers
to up the late fees they charge customers with delinquent
credit accounts from $10 a month to $25 a month.
The complicated legislative process was part of the problem,
A written statement from Crist, issued June 28, confirmed
that the fate of the international-surcharge bill was
adversely affected by the controversial amendment.
"The citizens of Florida are already feeling the combined
weight of an immense property tax burden, escalating
insurance premiums and a sharp rise in energy costs,"
Crist said of his reason for the veto. I do not support
placing an additional burden on our citizens who are
"I do not support placing an additional burden on our citizens who are struggling
financially." Harmelink said ATMIA plans to work with Florida legislators
again next year to resurrect the bill once again.
"We will ask Rep. [Jennifer] Carroll to file the bill again next year and, in the
meantime, continue to talk with Visa about overriding the international surcharge
rule and grant an exemption to the rule for all nonbank-owned ATMs
in the U.S.," Harmelink said.
"We also are setting up an economic research proposal to look at the impact
of Visa's interchange on ISOs, retailers and consumers, and will present
the proposal soon." Surcharging
international users is nothing new.
Florida was poised to become the
19th state to enact international surcharging
A similar bill was recently passed in
New York, allowing ATM deployers in
New York to begin collecting surcharge
fees in October 2007.
Although news of the New York bill's
approval was a big boost for ISOs in
that state, the veto in Florida was a
knock in the ATM industry's face.
Michelle Fowler, a Legislative Assistant
for Carroll, said news of the veto
"was very disheartening," because
approving an international surcharge
would not add any extra tax burden to
"By not approving this, it's actually
going to take money away from Florida
businesses," Fowler said.
And it will impact other businesses,
like Long Beach, Miss.-based Triton
Systems, one of North America's
largest off-premises ATM providers,
Triton representatives said they're disappointed
that the bill didn't pass,
but they're optimistic that Florida will
eventually come around, following the
lead set by other states.
"It is encouraging to see that
18 states have passed legislation
allowing ATM owners to treat international
visitors the same as they do
local consumers," said Brian Kett,
"The recent legislation simply closes a
loophole in the law.
"The fee associated with using
an ATM is not an undue burden
on consumers, but is a convenience
fee designed to offset the costs associated
with owning and managing
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