Gillian Shaw of the Vancouver Sun does a really sloppy job on an important issue. She reprints what a few people say to her. She does almost no analysis and misses the important issues.
1. Banks in Canada are hugely profitable. That is because they can make money. Literally. And unbelievably most people pay them more money for the "services" they use. Credit Unions demonstrate every day a more efficient way of banking that is cheaper for credit union members - whether they are consumers or businesses. Charges for banking are ridiculous - and that includes card use, debit or credit. Incidentally, at one time credit card companies would not allow merchants accepting their cards to pass on transaction costs to their customers. When did that change and why?
2. Handling cash is also expensive - and risky. Lose a card and it can be cancelled. Lose your wallet and it is a news story if you get it back with the cash in it. Translink makes a nice profit on its rolled change service, which is cheaper than the banks.
3. Transactions are never free - because some cost is involved. Most businesses are sensible and try to shield the customer from seeing these costs openly. But it seems to me to be fairly obvious when so many stores will give me cash back on my debit card which is cheaper from their point of view. Especially when a white label cash dispenser in the same store will ding me for the same service. Most stores will not add extra charges if you use their wash room (though many try to restrict their use to customers only). Most restaurants do not charge for tap water. Neither service is cost free to provide, but you can really upset people if you don't.
4. Credit cards can be very expensive indeed if you do not pay off the balance every month. Store cards are the worst. Debit cards are cheaper for people who have trouble keeping track of how much they are spending - but most institutions will be cheaper if you have a pre-agreed overdraft limit than a short period of credit card debt, simply because of the way that interest is calculated.
5. Merchants can decide which cards they accept, and the credit card companies have now been stopped from adopting some of their anticompetitive practices, that restricted which cards could be offered in the same places. Small transactions are an issue - but sooner or later some bright spark is going to solve it here just like they did in Hong Kong with the oyster card.
You want my business - treat me fairly. Simple.