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Pricing payment cards

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  • Bedre-Defolie, Özlem
  • Calvano, Emilio

Abstract

In a payment card association such as Visa, each time a consumer pays by card, the bank of the merchant (acquirer) pays an interchange fee (IF) to the bank of the cardholder (issuer) to carry out the transaction. This paper studies the determinants of socially and privately optimal IFs in a card scheme where services are provided by a monopoly issuer and perfectly competitive acquirers to heterogeneous consumers and merchants. Different from the literature, we distinguish card membership from card usage decisions (and fees). In doing so, we reveal the implications of an asymmetry between consumers and merchants: the card usage decision at a point of sale is delegated to cardholders since merchants are not allowed to turn down cards once they are affiliated with a card network. We show that this asymmetry is sufficient to induce the card association to set a higher IF than the socially optimal IF, and thus to distort the structure of user fees by leading to too low card usage fees at the expense of too high merchant fees. Hence, cap regulations on IFs can improve the welfare. These qualitative results are robust to imperfect issuer competition, imperfect acquirer competition, and to other factors affecting final demands, such as elastic consumer participation or strategic card acceptance to attract consumers. JEL Classification: G21, L11, L42, L31, L51, K21

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by European Central Bank in its series Working Paper Series with number 1139.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20091139

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Keywords: interchange fees; Merchant fees; Payment card associations;

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References

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  1. 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.
  2. Stuart E. Weiner & Julian Wright, 2005. "Interchange fees in various countries : developments and determinants," Proceedings – Payments System Research Conferences, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue May, pages 5-49.
  3. 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.
  4. Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Platform Competition in Two-Sided Markets," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(4), pages 990-1029, 06.
  5. Schmalensee, Richard, 2002. "Payment Systems and Interchange Fees," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 103-22, June.
  6. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Marcus, Scott & Rey, Patrick & Tirole, Jean, 2001. "Internet Interconnection and the Off-Net-Cost Pricing Principle," IDEI Working Papers 130, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  7. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers, 2010. "Competitive Non-linear Pricing and Bundling," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 30-60.
  8. repec:reg:rpubli:105 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Evans, David & Schmalensee, Richard, 2005. "The Economics of Interchange Fees and Their Regulation: An Overview," Working papers 18181, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  10. Hendrik J. Brouwer & Chair, 2005. "General discussion : Weiner-Wright : Interchange fees in various countries : developments and determinants," Proceedings – Payments System Research Conferences, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue May, pages 65-72.
  11. Julian Wright, 2001. "The Determinants of Optimal Interchange Fees in Payment Systems," Industrial Organization 0108001, EconWPA.
  12. Baxter, William F, 1983. "Bank Interchange of Transactional Paper: Legal and Economic Perspectives," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 541-88, October.
  13. Gans Joshua S & King Stephen P., 2003. "Approaches to Regulating Interchange Fees in Payment Systems," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 2(2), pages 1-21, June.
  14. Sujit Chakravorti, 2003. "Theory of credit card networks: a survey of the literature," Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper 03-09, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  15. Graeme Guthrie & Julian Wright, 2003. "Competing Payment Schemes," Departmental Working Papers wp0311, National University of Singapore, Department of Economics.
  16. Alan S. Frankel, 2005. "Interchange fees in various countries : developments and determinants : commentary on Weiner and Wright," Proceedings – Payments System Research Conferences, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue May, pages 51-64.
  17. Armstrong, Mark, 2001. "The theory of access pricing and interconnection," MPRA Paper 15608, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. James McAndrews & Zhu Wang, 2012. "The economics of two-sided payment card markets: pricing, adoption and usage," Working Paper 12-06, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  2. Anna Creti & Marianne Verdier, 2011. "Fraud, Investments and Liability Regimes in Payment Platforms," EconomiX Working Papers 2011-31, University of Paris West - Nanterre la Défense, EconomiX.
  3. Marc Bourreau & Marianne Verdier, 2010. "Cooperation for Innovation in Payment Systems: The Case of Mobile Payments," EconomiX Working Papers 2010-5, University of Paris West - Nanterre la Défense, EconomiX.
  4. Andre Veiga & E. Glen Weyl, 2011. "Multidimensional Heterogeneity and Platform Design," Working Papers 11-33, NET Institute, revised Nov 2011.
  5. Wilko Bolt & Sujit Chakravorti, 2010. "Digitization of Retail Payment," DNB Working Papers 270, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
  6. Verdier, Marianne, 2012. "Interchange fees and inefficiencies in the substitution between debit cards and cash," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 682-696.
  7. Wilko Bolt & Heiko Schmiedel, 2010. "SEPA, Efficiency, and Payment Card Competition," DNB Working Papers 239, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
  8. Alexander White & E. Glen Weyl, 2010. "Imperfect Platform Competition: A General Framework," Working Papers 10-17, NET Institute, revised Nov 2010.
  9. Economides, Nicholas & Henriques, David, 2011. "To surcharge or not to surcharge? A two-sided market perspective of the no-surchage rule," Working Paper Series 1388, European Central Bank.
  10. Reisinger, Markus, 2014. "Two-part tariff competition between two-sided platforms," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 168-180.
  11. Reisinger, Markus, 2010. "Unique Equilibrium in Two-Part Tariff Competition between Two-Sided Platforms," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 308, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.

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