Review of Card System Access Regimes: A Consultation Document – May 2013 1. Introduction

As part of its payments system reforms, the Reserve Bank introduced access regimes for the MasterCard and Visa credit card systems in 2004 and for the Visa Debit system in 2005.[1] These access regimes were largely designed to expand access to the card schemes in Australia and stemmed from the concern that the schemes' restrictions on entry had not struck the right balance between competition in the payments system and the financial safety of the schemes, and were therefore not in the public interest.

The access regimes have allowed new entrants that would otherwise have been ineligible for scheme membership to participate in the card schemes without compromising the financial safety of the schemes. The reforms have promoted efficiency and competition in the provision of credit and debit card payment services to merchants and cardholders by facilitating the participation of institutions that specialise in card issuing, acquiring, or both, but that do not conduct other banking business.

It has become clear from recent developments, however, that the access regimes in their current form may no longer be fulfilling their original objective. Indeed, they may now be preventing prospective scheme participants from entry. The Reserve Bank is now considering whether changes to these regimes may be appropriate. Section 2 of this consultation document sets out the background to the access regimes and potential issues that have arisen. Section 3 outlines some preliminary policy options and Section 4 provides further discussion on those options. Section 5 looks at issues for consultation and Section 6 provides details of the next steps.


An access regime was also imposed on the Bankcard system, which ceased operation in 2006. [1]