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Do consumers choose the right credit contracts?

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  • Agarwal, Sumit
  • Chomsisengphet, Souphala
  • Liu, Chunlin
  • Souleles, Nicholas S.
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    Abstract

    A number of studies have pointed to various mistakes that consumers might make in their consumption-saving and financial decisions. We utilize a unique market experiment conducted by a large U.S. bank to assess how systematic and costly such mistakes are in practice. The bank offered consumers a choice between two credit card contracts, one with an annual fee but a lower interest rate and one with no annual fee but a higher interest rate. To minimize their total interest costs net of the fee, consumers expecting to borrow a sufficiently large amount should choose the contract with the fee, and vice-versa. We find that on average consumers chose the contract that ex post minimized their net costs. A substantial fraction of consumers (about 40%) still chose the ex post sub-optimal contract, with some incurring hundreds of dollars of avoidable interest costs. Nonetheless, the probability of choosing the sub-optimal contract declines with the dollar magnitude of the potential error, and consumers with larger errors were more likely to subsequently switch to the optimal contract. Thus most of the errors appear not to have been very costly, with the exception that a small minority of consumers persists in holding substantially sub-optimal contracts without switching. --

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Center for Financial Studies (CFS) in its series CFS Working Paper Series with number 2005/32.

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    Date of creation: 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200532

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    Keywords: Consumption-Saving; Borrowing; Consumer Finance; Consumer Credit; Credit Cards; Banking;

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    References

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    1. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540, May.
    2. Eugenio J. Miravete, 2003. "Choosing the Wrong Calling Plan? Ignorance and Learning," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 297-310, March.
    3. Souleles, Nicholas S, 2004. "Expectations, Heterogeneous Forecast Errors, and Consumption: Micro Evidence from the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Surveys," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(1), pages 39-72, February.
    4. Peter S. Yoo, 1998. "Still charging: the growth of credit card debt between 1992 and 1995," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 19-27.
    5. John Heaton & Deborah Lucas, 2000. "Portfolio Choice and Asset Prices: The Importance of Entrepreneurial Risk," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(3), pages 1163-1198, 06.
    6. Michael Manove & A. Jorge Padilla, 1999. "Banking (Conservatively) with Optimists," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 324-350, Summer.
    7. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," NBER Working Papers 8314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. George-Marios Angeletos, 2001. "The Hyberbolic Consumption Model: Calibration, Simulation, and Empirical Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 47-68, Summer.
    9. Terrance Odean, 1998. "Are Investors Reluctant to Realize Their Losses?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(5), pages 1775-1798, October.
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    Cited by:
    1. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
    2. Benjamin A. Malin, 2005. "Hyperbolic Discounting and Uniform Savings Floor," Discussion Papers 04-034, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    3. Campbell, John, 2006. "Household Finance," Scholarly Articles 3157877, Harvard University Department of Economics.

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