Last-minute deal needed to keep UK-issued Visa credit cards working on Amazon

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

Millions of people’s credit cards will stop working on Amazon’s UK website from this week – unless there is an 11th-hour resolution to a bitter dispute between the retailer and payments giant Visa.

In November, Amazon told customers that from 19 January it would stop accepting payments made with UK-issued Visa credit cards, in what has been described as a “game of corporate chicken”.

It is not known how many people are affected by the payment ban, though in March 2021, Mintel said 89% of Britons shopped at Amazon, and its analysts estimated Amazon Prime membership in the UK at about 21 million. Last month it was claimed that Amazon faces losing nearly £1.4bn from UK shoppers as a result of its move.

Related: What will happen if Amazon stops accepting UK-issued Visa credit cards?

There is speculation, however, that a last-minute agreement could be reached between the two sides. On Friday, Amazon and Visa declined to provide an update on negotiations.

Amazon blamed its decision on “the high fees Visa charges for processing credit card transactions”.

The move potentially inconveniences millions of people who use a Visa credit card issued by providers including Barclaycard to buy items on the website or pay for their Amazon Prime membership.

The retailer said it would continue to accept all debit cards (including Visa debit cards) and non-Visa credit cards, including Mastercard-branded ones and American Express.

Affected customers who currently use a Visa credit card have been told they need to update their payment method, otherwise any new orders they place on the site will be rejected from 19 January onwards. They will also lose access to Amazon Prime benefits including faster delivery of items, thousands of TV shows and films on Prime Video, and the Amazon Music Prime streaming service.

At the time of the announcement, Visa said it was “continuing to work toward a resolution,” while Martin Lewis, the founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said he suspected the move was a possible negotiating tactic by Amazon to get Visa to lower its fees.

To date there has been no news of any agreement, and on Thursday, a blog in trade journal the Grocer said this was a “game of corporate chicken” – a row where neither side wants to be the first to back down.

Nevertheless, one credit card industry insider told the Guardian: “We are hopeful there will be an agreement.”

In emails to customers, Amazon has acknowledged that removing the ability to pay for products with a Visa credit card and making people update their details may be inconvenient and “a bit of a bother”.

Payments on cards attract a range of fees including interchange fees, which are paid by businesses to card issuers each time a card is used by a consumer, and are higher for credit card transactions.

Card fees have long been an issue of contention between providers and retailers, and last week MPs waded into the row. The Commons Treasury select committee said that in October, a few weeks before Amazon’s announcement, both Mastercard and Visa hiked cross-border interchange fees for debit and credit card transactions, from 0.2% to 0.3% and from 1.15% to 1.5% respectively. It added that the fees paid by businesses to card payment operators for use of the service had also risen substantially.

Visa said in November that it was “very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future”.

Many shoppers choose to use credit cards for large purchases online because of the extra protections offered if things go wrong.

Amazon’s decision also deals a blow to people who use their Visa credit card to spread the cost of their spending, or to collect points, air miles or cashback.

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