Credit Cards Regulatory Framework


In line with its approach to regulation, since the early 2000s the Bank has introduced a number of reforms which have regulated limited elements of designated credit and debit card systems, with the aim of improving the efficiency of the Australian payments system and promoting competition in the provision of payment services.

In short, the current credit card regulations:

  • cap credit card interchange fees to a weighted average of 0.50 per cent of transaction value, with a ceiling on individual interchange rates of 0.80 per cent
  • remove restrictions so that merchants can pass on card acceptance costs to cardholders in the form of a surcharge
  • remove restrictions that require merchants to accept the debit cards of a scheme if they accept that scheme's credit cards and vice versa (through written Undertakings by Mastercard and Visa)
  • reduce barriers to entry through Access Regimes which help increase participation in payment systems.

Together the regulations have increased transparency and promoted more efficient price signals, thereby improving payment choices and contributing to a more efficient payments system overall. They have also improved competition by removing restrictions on merchants and liberalising access to systems.

Review of Card Payments Regulation

Since the card payment reforms in the early 2000s, the Bank has periodically reviewed its retail payments regulations, with the most recent wide-ranging review taking place over 2019–21. As part of this process the Bank released an Issues Paper in November 2019 that summarised recent developments in retail payments and highlighted a broad range of potential regulatory issues. In May 2021, the Bank released a Consultation Paper that outlined the Payments System Board's (PSB) preliminary views on the major issues and presented a draft set of standards. The PSB's final Conclusions to the Review of Retail Payments Regulation, including a final set of standards, were published in October 2021, which followed an extensive public consultation process.

Following extensive reforms as a result of the 2015-16 review, the 2019-21 review resulted in relatively minor changes to the regulatory framework for credit cards. From 1 January 2022, the designated credit card systems – Mastercard and Visa – will be required to publish interchange fees on transactions on foreign-issued credit cards on their websites, and the American Express companion card system will no longer be subject to regulation.

See Media Release for further details.

More information

For details of credit card regulations, including designations of systems, standards, access regimes, interchange fee benchmarks and voluntary undertakings see: ‘Regulations’. Information about consultations and regulatory decisions made in relation to the credit card system can be found here: 'Consultations' and ‘Regulatory Decisions’.

Several resources are available that summarise credit and debit card regulations. For instance, see: A Guide to the Card Payments System Reforms, RBA Bulletin, September 2010 for a guide to earlier reforms. More recently, the Bank's 2014 submission to the Financial System Inquiry (Chapter 8) and the Bank's November 2019 Issues Paper provide detailed descriptions of the rationale for, and evolution of, card payments regulation in Australia since the early 2000s.