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Who gains and who loses from credit card payments?: theory and calibrations

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  • Scott Schuh
  • Oz Shy
  • Joanna Stavins

Abstract

Merchant fees and reward programs generate an implicit monetary transfer to credit card users from non-card (or “cash”) users because merchants generally do not set differential prices for card users to recoup the costs of fees and rewards. On average, each cash-using household pays $151 to card-using households and each card-using household receives $1,482 from cash users every year. Because credit card spending and rewards are positively correlated with household income, the payment instrument transfer also induces a regressive transfer from low-income to high-income households in general. On average, and after accounting for rewards paid to households by banks, the lowest-income household ($20,000 or less annually) pays $23 and the highest-income household ($150,000 or more annually) receives $756 every year. We build and calibrate a model of consumer payment choice to compute the effects of merchant fees and card rewards on consumer welfare. Reducing merchant fees and card rewards would likely increase consumer welfare.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Public Policy Discussion Paper with number 10-3.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpp:10-3

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Related research

Keywords: Credit cards;

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Cited by:
  1. Sumit Agarwal & Sujit Chakravorti & Anna Lunn, 2010. "Why do banks reward their customers to use their credit cards?," Working Paper Series WP-2010-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

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