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A Visa card is seen in this file photo. Visa is offering Manitoba card users a $10 credit if they spend more than $50 on groceries. The move comes after retail giant Wal-Mart stopped accepting the card at its stores in the province. (Chris Bolin Photography Inc. For The Globe and Mail)
A Visa card is seen in this file photo. Visa is offering Manitoba card users a $10 credit if they spend more than $50 on groceries. The move comes after retail giant Wal-Mart stopped accepting the card at its stores in the province. (Chris Bolin Photography Inc. For The Globe and Mail)

Visa's Manitoba customers offered grocery credit as Wal-Mart feud escalates Add to ...

Visa Canada is offering its Manitoba cardholders a reward if they buy their groceries somewhere other than Wal-Mart.

The credit card giant has launched an advertising campaign in which it offers a $10 credit to Manitoba cardholders who spend $50 or more at grocery stores in the province.

Cardholders must register their number before Nov. 15 at visa.ca/Manitoba and they’ll automatically receive the credit within 15 days of making their purchase.

Visa is in the midst of a fee dispute with Wal-Mart, which stopped accepting the card at its 16 Manitoba stores on Oct. 24.

The retail giant vowed in June to stop accepting Visa at all of its more than 400 Canadian outlets if Visa doesn’t lower its credit card fee, which it charges to all of its retail customers.

A month later, Wal-Mart started banning Visa cards at its stores in Thunder Bay.

The ad campaign doesn’t mention Wal-Mart or the fee dispute. Carla Hindman, a spokeswoman for Visa Canada, said it’s not unusual for the company to conduct promotions that encourage cardholders to use their Visa cards in new and different places.

Asked if this particular promotion was aimed at encouraging them to buy their groceries from someone other than Wal-Mart, Hindman said, “We hope this eases the inconvenience for Visa cardholders in Manitoba who cannot use their card everywhere they may want to.”

She said Visa ran a similar ad in Thunder Bay after Wal-Mart banned its cards in its stores there. The offer there was a $25 credit for every grocery purchase of $75 or more.

Alex Roberton, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada, said “We don’t comment on how other organizations want to promote their brand.”

Prof. Sylvain Charlebois, a Canadian food-industry analyst at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, described this latest move by Visa as interesting and unusual.

“Visa is positioning itself as the saviour of consumers and saying, ‘Look, Wal-Mart is complaining about our fee but here is what we’re trying to do for you,“’ he said. “It’s the battle of who is being the protector of the grocery shopper.”

Wal-Mart said it pays more than $100-million in fees annually for customers to use the various brands of credit cards, and that Visa’s fees are too high. It hasn’t said how soon it may extend the ban to other cities and provinces.

Visa – Canada’s largest credit card firm – has said it offered Wal-Mart one of the lowest rates for any merchant in the country, but the retailer wants more. It said if it gives in, Wal-Mart’s fees would be lower than those charged to other grocers and many of its other retail customers.

Charlebois said that’s the crux of the issue for Visa Canada, and the main reason it’s refusing to cave in to Wal-Mart’s demands. If it does, other retailers will demand a reduction in their fees, as well.

“I think Visa may actually see this as a significant threat which could impact their entire business model, not just their business with Wal-Mart,” he said.

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