Millions of Americans eligible to receive payments from the multimillionaire settlement between Visa and Mastercard

June 6, 2024 4:30 pm
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Withdrawing money from ATMs is a common occurrence in our everyday life when we run out of cash, or we need to pay something specific. The last thing we expect when we go to our bank and withdraw money from our account with our own Visa or Marstercard bank card is to have additional fees because of the card you are using, but that is exactly what happened to millions of Americans starting October 1, 2007.

What ATM cards were affected

The two credit card companies that have been accused of keeping fees for accessing money from ATMs artificially high are Visa and Mastercard, both amongst the most used card companies both in the United States and around the world.

Bank customers noticed that they had been charged larger fees than they should have and banded together to present a class action lawsuit against both companies to recoup the extra fees and prevent further surcharges. After the lower courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, an appeal was filed by the card companies in the Washington DC District Court on the grounds of “lack of rigorous analysis performed by the judge before certifying the class action lawsuits” as they allowed for three plaintiffs to band together to sue as a class action. This appeal was denied, and the companies decided to acquiesce to a settlement.

It is almost an unprecedented settlement, and the win is not underscored by the fact that both Visa and Mastercard deny any wrongdoings and illegal fees. Still, when negotiations were over on May 29, it meant good news by the more than 175 million Americans that is estimated were affected by the unreasonably high ATM fees.

Settlement with Visa and Mastercard

The settlement documents have divided the responsibility of the restitutions based on the portion each company has to pay and who it would have to pay it to. A total of $197.5 million will be paid, divided as follows: Visa will pay $105.7 million and Mastercard will pay $92.8 million. On top of this lawsuit, corresponding exclusively to customers that used their bank ATM as private citizens, there are two other parallel lawsuits that have been filed in the same vein and with the same court that relate to this matter and as such, are likely to get the same outcome. One pertaining to customers who used non-bank ATMs and were charged these extra fees and another one pertaining to businesses who own an independent ATM and unwittingly partook in this process.

If the settlement does get approved by the courts (there are seemingly no impediments for it, but you never know when a last minute issue can derail approval, especially a legal issue), over 100 million notices will be sent out via email to those that have already been registered as affected, and advertisements will be placed on websites and applications targeting individuals that could potentially have been affected by the issue.

Although the settlement number seems high, and the fees being reimbursed should be quite low (it is more a cumulative effect and a matter of principle, as fees are established by the contract you sign with your bank when getting the card), the amount of affected individuals that can prove that they were affected will make the final amount each person receives almost nominal. And that is by just taking into account those plaintiffs know have been affected for sure and can prove it. Once the widespread notices and the advertisements go out and more people check to see if they were overcharged and can get back some fees, the number of affected individuals may skyrocket.

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