Montana C-Store Owners Denounce State Senator

Montana convenience stores speak out on the efforts of a state senator.

Montana c-store operators target U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in a newspaper and TV ad, denouncing him for his 2011 effort to stall new limits on debit card “swipe fees” charged by banks, the Missoulian reported.

The ads launched last weekend, claiming that Sen. Tester “led the charge for big Wall Street banks” to undo reforms and allow them to increase fees. Tester has said that a swipe fee limit would unfairly cut a key revenue stream for small-town banks. 

Sen. Tester is running against U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., for re-election to the Senate. However, the Montana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association said the ad campaign isn’t about endorsing Rehberg.

The Federal Reserve estimated that banks charged about 44 cents per transaction on debit cards, or much more than their alleged cost. Its initial rule would have limited fees to 12 cents per transaction, but it later adjusted the ceiling to about 23 cents per swipe, which retailers say is still too high.

“This is about our disappointment in (Tester’s) support of big bank and credit card companies,” said Ronna Alexander, spokeswoman for the association. “We don’t consider this as getting involved in the race, but raising an issue.”

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