Travel agents have called on consortia and Abta to negotiate better credit card charges on their behalf ahead of next year’s abolition of fees for consumers.

Members made the plea during a panel session at Elite Travel Group’s 2017 conference in Majorca.

The ban on surcharging customers for credit and debit card payments for most transactions, including flight and holiday bookings, will apply from January 13 when the second EU Payment Services Directive (PSD2) takes effect.

This means travel agents will have to pay the bank charges from their own
bottom line.

Already some agents have negotiated reductions in card fees with merchant service providers, while some tour operators have also pledged to increase commission by 0.5% to help offset the cost for retailers.

Carrick Travel has already renegotiated its rates but director Tracey Carter urged Elite to help other consortium members by holding talks with banks to reduce the fees from January.

She said: “I think Elite has to do something to get these fees down. We have spoken to the bank and our fees have been reduced.”

Sue Foxall, managing director, Kinver Travel, said: “I would say it’s down to Elite to do something about this, or to press Advantage, to see what deals the banks can come up with. There will agents who really suffer from this change.”

Elite Travel Group chief executive Neil Basnett promised to consult the board of directors about negotiating with banks direct but added that Advantage, with which Elite is affiliated, is better placed to hold these talks because it can speak on behalf of more agents.

He said: “Advantage will have more clout than Elite.”

He added that many members were now encouraging clients to pay their holiday deposit by credit card and the balance by another method such as bank transfer to reduce their costs.

Colin Matthews, managing director of Travel Club Elite, said it would also help to have more guidance from Abta on the rates members should achieve from credit card companies.

“If Abta could compile some best practice then you have got something to target and you are not working blind. It’s an immediate concern for us because balances for bookings we take now will come in after January,” he said.

Simon Bunce, director of legal affairs for Abta, told the panel: “It is difficult for Abta to get into negotiations with card providers.

“We have talked to the Treasury about the unfairness and the fact regulations to reduce card transaction fees have not worked, and we have produced guidance. Agents need to work out what is best for their business.”

The Treasury has indicated agents could offer lounge passes or vouchers off future holiday bookings as an incentive for clients to book by other means, such as by bank transfer, he added.