Swipe Fees Drive Up Thanksgiving Costs

Whether families stay home, travel or eat out, swipe fees are driving up costs this week.

November 22, 2023

Rising credit card “swipe” fees will contribute significantly to the cost of celebrating Thanksgiving this year regardless of whether families stay home, eat out or travel, said the Merchants Payments Coalition.

Swipe fees touch all aspects of an American family’s Thanksgiving celebration, making everything from the turkey to travel cost more.

Groceries for a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 10 will average $61.17 this year, including $27.35 for a 16-pound frozen turkey, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Based on the average rate, swipe fees will account for $1.37 of the total—including about 60 cents per turkey. Americans will spend $1.28 billion on turkeys, according to research website Finder, citing data from the National Turkey Federation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Based on that number, swipe fees amount to $28.7 million.

Lending Tree sets the estimate for dinner much higher, saying those throwing an at-home Thanksgiving party for 11 plan to spend an average $361 on food, drink and decorations, which means swipe fees account for $8 of the total. For parents with children under 18, the amount rises to $469, including over $10 in swipe fees.

Dinner isn’t the only cost of celebrating Thanksgiving. An estimated 49.1 million people are expected to drive to their destinations, and the cost of regular gas currently averages $3.35 per gallon, according to AAA. That means swipe fees cost 7.5 cents per gallon, adding 75 cents to a 10-gallon fill-up. 

Travel app Hopper says the average daily car rental rate this Thanksgiving will be $42, which would make the swipe fee close to $1 per day. Airfare for a domestic round-trip flight will average $268, so swipe fees account for $6 of the ticket price. With AAA expecting 4.7 million people to travel by air, that’s $1.26 billion in airfare, including about $28.2 million in swipe fees.

In 2022, swipe fees cost the industry $19.5 billion. Over the last three years, overall card fees paid by the convenience store industry were up 82%. For many convenience retailers, the swipe fees they pay exceed their pre-tax profits. These fees represent their second-highest operating cost—less than labor but more than rent and utilities.

The impact of swipe fees comes as Congress is considering the Credit Card Competition Act. First proposed last year, the CCCA was reintroduced in June by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Peter Welch (D-VT) and J.D. Vance (R-OH), along with Representatives Lance Gooden (R-TX), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Tiffany (R-WI), and Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ).

NACS members are encouraged to reach out to their members of Congress and ask that they support the Credit Card Competition Act. NACS makes it easy for retailers and suppliers to send a message to their legislators via the NACS Grassroot Portal.