In July, MasterCard ( MA), Visa ( V) and other major banks agreed to pay more than $6 billion to resolve accusations that they engaged in anti-competitive practices and price fixing in payment processing. In addition, credit card companies agreed to reduce swipe fees for eight months, an adjustment valued at $1.2 billion. The settlement would also allow retailers to charge higher prices to their customers for paying with credit cards. Before this settlement, the card companies prohibited retailers from adding this type of surcharge. Just days after the proposed settlement, Wal-Mart ( WMT) and Target ( TGT) came out against it and were joined by major trade groups including the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Retail Federation and the National Restaurant Association. Eventually, a majority of the original 19 plaintiffs would come out against the settlement. They are challenging a part of the order that would free Visa and MasterCard from new legal claims over related interchange issues. The settlement got initial approval in the U.S. District Court in November but is being appealed in the appeals court. 2. Growth of prepaid cards
Thanks to regulations and legislation on credit cards, banks are turning renewed attention to prepaid cards. Prepaid cards have fewer regulations than credit cards and banks are embracing prepaid cards for needed revenue. Today, competition for the prepaid market is growing and driving down rates and fees. Consumers loaded approximately $57 billion onto prepaid cards in 2011, and loads were projected to reach approximately $82 billion last year, $117 billion this year and $167 billion next year, according to the Mercator Advisory Group. There are no government regulations and consumer protections on prepaid cards -- debit and credit card rules and regulations do not apply. But that may soon change. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating the fees and practices of prepaid cards and seeking input on ways to enforce safety for consumers.