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Price Differentiation and Menu Costs in Credit Card Payments

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  • Marcos Valli Jorge
  • Wilfredo Leiva Maldonado

Abstract

We build a model of credit card payments where the retailers are allowed to charge differential prices depending on the instrument of payment chosen by the consumer. We follow the Rochet and Wright (2010) approach, but assuming a credit card system without a no-surcharge rule or any type of price differentiation disincentive. In a Hotelling competition framework at the retailers level, the competitive equilibrium prices are computed assuming that the store credit provided by the retailer is less cost efficient than the one provided by the credit card. In accordance with the literature, we obtain that the interchange fee becomes neutral if we eliminate the no-surcharge rule, when the interchange fee loses its ability to distort the individual consumer’s decisions displacing the aggregated consumers’ welfare from its maximum. We prove that the average price obtained under price differentiation is smaller than the single retail price under the no-surcharge rule, despite the retailer’s margins being the same in both scenarios. Furthermore, we show how some cross subsidies are eliminated when price differentiation is allowed. In addition, we introduce menu costs to prove that there is a threshold value for the interchange fee such that price differentiation is equilibrium if that fee is above this value. The threshold may be interpreted as an endogenous cap for the interchange fee fixed by the credit card industry. Finally we conclude that, even with menu costs associated to price differentiation, the consumers’ welfare can be greater in the price differentiated equilibrium than in the single price equilibrium under the non-surcharge rule.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Central Bank of Brazil, Research Department in its series Working Papers Series with number 315.

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Date of creation: Jul 2013
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Handle: RePEc:bcb:wpaper:315

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  1. Wang, Zhu, 2010. "Market structure and payment card pricing: What drives the interchange?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 86-98, January.
  2. Chakravorti, Sujit & To, Ted, 2007. "A theory of credit cards," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 583-595, June.
  3. Gans Joshua S & King Stephen P, 2003. "The Neutrality of Interchange Fees in Payment Systems," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
  4. Rochet, Jean-Charles & Wright, Julian, 2009. "Credit card interchange fees," Working Paper Series 1138, European Central Bank.
  5. Richard Schmalensee, 2001. "Payment Systems and Interchange Fees," NBER Working Papers 8256, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Sujit Chakravorti & William R. Emmons, 2001. "Who pays for credit cards?," Occasional Paper; Emerging Payments EPS-2001-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  7. Weiner Stuart E. & Wright Julian, 2005. "Interchange Fees in Various Countries: Developments and Determinants," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(4), pages 1-34, December.
  8. Schuh, Scott & Stavins, Joanna, 2010. "Why are (some) consumers (finally) writing fewer checks? The role of payment characteristics," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 1745-1758, August.
  9. Wright, Julian, 2003. "Optimal card payment systems," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 587-612, August.
  10. Terri Bradford, 2008. "Developments in interchange fees in the United States and abroad," Payments System Research Briefing, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Apr.
  11. Rochet Jean-Charles, 2003. "The Theory of Interchange Fees: A Synthesis of Recent Contributions," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 2(2), pages 1-28, June.
  12. Rochet Jean-Charles & Tirole Jean, 2006. "Externalities and Regulation in Card Payment Systems," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-14, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Vicente da Gama Machado & Marcelo Savino Portugal, 2014. "Measuring inflation persistence in Brazil using a multivariate model," Revista Brasileira de Economia, FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil), vol. 68(2), pages 225-241, June.

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