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OPINION: Credit card legislation threatens Nevada’s economy

Mike Kazmierski
Mike Kazmierski
Opinion
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As if our elected officials in Washington don’t have anything better to do. 

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Roger Marshall have proposed a bill that would make credit card rewards — one of the benefits we have from using our credit cards as opposed to debit cards for our purchases — disappear. The loss of this benefit would directly and adversely impact travel and tourism throughout the state. Thousands of people who travel to Nevada every year do so using credit card rewards and cash back to book flights, rent cars, stay in hotels and explore all our state has to offer. If the Durbin-Marshall bill passes, this could deal a devastating blow to our tourism industry and our state economy.

According to a survey conducted by LendingTree, 87 percent of consumers have at least one credit card with a rewards program. Every time consumers use one of those credit cards to buy groceries, fill up at the pump, pay bills or shop online they earn cash back or reward points, which can later be used to pay for vacation expenses such as flights and hotels. According to a recent study by Airlines for America, credit card rewards paid for more than 800,000 trips to Nevada in 2022. The same study revealed that trips paid for with credit card rewards generated nearly $1.2 billion in economic activity and supported more than 8,000 jobs in the state. 

This bill could not come at a worse time for Nevada’s $75 billion travel and tourism industry, which has nearly rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers. By the end of 2022, spending by Nevada’s more than 50 million visitors exceeded that of the prior year by 25 percent, and even surpassed 2019 levels. Any decrease in the number of people able to afford travel would negatively impact Nevada’s economy.

This legislation would also hurt employees in the travel and tourism industry who are the backbone of our state. Not only would these workers be at risk of losing their jobs and livelihoods, but a recent poll found that 1 in 3 Americans with household incomes less than $50,000 would travel less if their credit card rewards were eliminated. For the thousands of workers who clean hotel rooms, bus tables, drive shuttles and lead tours, this legislation is a double whammy.

Though inflation is easing in many segments of the economy, a recession may be looming, and Americans are still feeling a pinch on their budgets. Travel is considered a luxury for many. Credit card rewards are a solution, offering millions of people a way to visit family, enjoy a well-deserved vacation or take a bucket list trip. When people pay to travel to Nevada, they aren’t just buying flights and hotels — they are powering our economy by spending money in our communities on sports, live entertainment, restaurants and more. Each of these dollars spent generate taxes that fuel our state and local governments.

Nevada needs a commitment to strengthen tourism, not a threat that would put billions of dollars of spending and thousands of jobs at risk. We need to do all that we can to protect Nevada’s tourism industry, jobs and our economy. The Durbin-Marshall bill is a bad idea coming at a bad time. Our tourism-dependent state deserves better.

Mike Kazmierski is the former CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

The Nevada Independent welcomes informed, cogent rebuttals to opinion pieces such as this. Send them to [email protected].

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