The Associated Press
updated 11/12/2003 11:37:08 PM ET 2003-11-13T04:37:08

Visa USA Inc. has told member banks that its policy of discouraging defections would extend only to those that want to do more business with MasterCard, The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.

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VISA SAID IN JULY it would charge a fee to any of 100 key Visa member banks that opted to leave Visa to issue debit cards under a rival brand, such as American Express, Morgan Stanley’s Discover or MasterCard.

But this week, Visa sent a memo to members saying the fee only applied to banks leaving for MasterCard, the report said.

The memo, written by Visa’s general counsel, said Visa was changing the policy to address concerns raised by the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department, which has been conducting its own review of Visa’s fee, according to the Journal.

MasterCard, which like Visa is an association owned by the banks that issue its cards, has sought to lure Visa members into issuing more cards under the MasterCard brand.

It has said that Visa’s fee is anticompetitive and has challenged the fee as running counter to a court decision in an antitrust suit in which Visa and MasterCard were both defendants, the report noted.

That verdict is under appeal. MasterCard has no such fee for its members, the report said.

A spokeswoman for Visa could not be reached for comment early on Thursday.

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