Tourism is the lifeblood of Nevada’s economy. Our hotels, resorts, and casinos are thriving — in March of this year, hotel occupancy reached over 90%. Visitor spending contributed nearly $100 billion to our economy last year.
One of the biggest driving factors bringing tourists to Nevada is credit card reward programs. Travelers use their airline miles to book flights to Las Vegas and Reno, hotel points to stay in a resort that might otherwise be out of budget, and cash back rewards to splurge on restaurants and entertainment. And we should not underestimate the economic impact of these programs. Last year alone, more than 800,000 visitors used airline credit card points to fund their travel here, creating nearly 9,000 jobs and generating a total economic impact of $1.16 billion.
However, that economic engine is threatened by a bill before the U.S. Senate called the Credit Card Competition Act. This bill attempts to fundamentally alter credit card programs and eliminate reward programs without regard to how this will hurt tourism industries or consumers. A few weeks ago the lieutenant governor authored a piece trying to make the case that the CCCA will be good for our state tourism, but facts simply disprove this assertion.
What the CCCA will actually do is decimate the value of credit card rewards programs people use to fund travel to Nevada, constricting our economy, hurting consumers and small businesses and reducing credit card availability to Nevada families, especially in marginalized communities.
Fundamentally, the CCCA will transfer the revenue that credit cards generate from consumers, like cash-back rewards, airline points and fraud protection, to the largest retailers in the world. This means we will have severe cutbacks to the rewards programs that hundreds of thousands of visitors rely on to travel to our state every single year — and this is exactly what happened when a similar policy passed for debit cards back in 2010. Debit card rewards programs essentially vanished.
Advocates of the CCCA claim that retailers will use this new revenue to reduce costs to consumers — but everyone that has seen corporations use the pandemic to increase prices know that this newfound wealth won’t be returned to Nevada families, but go to the bottom line of the corporations backing this bill.
That is why all our major airlines and the biggest airline workers unions — including the Association of Flight Attendants, the Communication Workers of America, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and Transport Workers Union of America — all are against the CCCA. It will increase the costs of tickets, hurt the 500,000 Americans working in that industry, and harm travelers. The unions put it simply and elegantly: “The Credit Card Competition Act Only Helps Billionaires — Labor Stands in Opposition.”
The truth is the big winners for the Credit Card Competition Act are some of the largest corporations in the world like massive retailers Amazon, Walmart and Target. Meanwhile, consumers lose access to credit and rewards programs, and small businesses get nothing. Big-box stores have pocketed more than $106 billion since the original debit policy passed, without passing these savings on to consumers, and stand to make $40 to $50 billion more per year if the CCCA passes.
Make no mistake — the Credit Card Competition Act is going to hurt our economy, our state and all who work in our hotels, entertainment venues and travel. Nevada’s delegation in Congress must stand up for Nevada workers and Nevada families and stop this bill.
Max Carter is a third-generation Nevadan, a 30-year member of IBEW Local 357 and the assemblyman for District 12 in the Nevada Legislature.
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