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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

Suggested Citation

  • Bedre-Defolie, Özlem & Calvano, Emilio, 2009. "Pricing payment cards," Working Paper Series 1139, European Central Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20091139
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Graeme Guthrie & Julian Wright, 2003. "Competing Payment Schemes," Departmental Working Papers wp0311, National University of Singapore, Department of Economics.
    2. Schmalensee, Richard, 2002. "Payment Systems and Interchange Fees," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 103-122, June.
    3. David S. Evans & Richard Schmalensee, 2005. "The economics of interchange fees and their regulation : an overview," Proceedings – Payments System Research Conferences, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue May, pages 73-120.
    4. Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Cooperation Among Competitors: Some Economics Of Payment Card Associations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 549-570, Winter.
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    6. 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.
    7. Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2014. "Platform Competition in Two-Sided Markets," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 10.
    8. repec:reg:rpubli:105 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. 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.
    10. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers, 2010. "Competitive Non-linear Pricing and Bundling," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 30-60.
    11. 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 541-588, October.
    12. 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.
    13. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Marcus, Scott & Rey, Patrick & Tirole, Jean, 2003. " Internet Interconnection and the Off-Net-Cost Pricing Principle," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(2), pages 370-390, Summer.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Gokhan Guven & Eren Inci & Antonio Russo, 2017. "Apparent Competition in Two-Sided Platforms," CESifo Working Paper Series 6660, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Wang, Zhu, 2016. "Price cap regulation in a two-sided market: Intended and unintended consequences," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 28-37.
    3. James J. McAndrews & Zhu Wang, 2008. "The economics of two-sided payment card markets: pricing, adoption and usage," Research Working Paper RWP 08-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
    4. Nicholas Economides & David Henriques, 2011. "To Surcharge or Not To Surcharge? A Two-Sided Market Perspective of the No-Surcharge Rule," Working Papers 11-03, NET Institute.
    5. Weyl, E. Glen, 2009. "Monopoly, Ramsey and Lindahl in Rochet and Tirole (2003)," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 103(2), pages 99-100, May.
    6. Paul Heidhues & Botond Kőszegi, 2015. "On the Welfare Costs of Naiveté in the US Credit-Card Market," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 47(3), pages 341-354, November.
    7. Ding, Rong, 2014. "Merchant internalization revisited," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 125(3), pages 347-349.
    8. Belleflamme, Paul & Omrani, Nessrine & Peitz, Martin, 2015. "The economics of crowdfunding platforms," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 11-28.
    9. Gomes, Renato & Pavan, Alessandro, 2016. "Many-to-many matching and price discrimination," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(3), September.
    10. Alexander White & E. Glen Weyl, 2010. "Imperfect Platform Competition: A General Framework," Working Papers 10-17, NET Institute, revised Nov 2010.
    11. repec:bla:jindec:v:65:y:2017:i:1:p:39-72 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Reisinger, Markus, 2014. "Two-part tariff competition between two-sided platforms," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 168-180.
    13. Sato, Susumu, 2017. "Freemium as Optimal Menu Pricing," MPRA Paper 81599, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Krivosheya, Egor & Korolev, Andrew, 2016. "Benefits of the retail payments card market: Russian cardholders' evidence," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(11), pages 5034-5039.
    15. Bolt, Wilko & Schmiedel, Heiko, 2009. "SEPA, efficiency, and payment card competition," Working Paper Series 1140, European Central Bank.
    16. Andre Veiga & E. Glen Weyl, 2011. "Multidimensional Heterogeneity and Platform Design," Working Papers 11-33, NET Institute, revised Nov 2011.
    17. Wilko Bolt & Sujit Chakravorti, 2010. "Digitization of Retail Payment," DNB Working Papers 270, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    18. Marc BOURREAU & Marianne VERDIER, 2010. "Cooperation for Innovation in Payment Systems: The Case of Mobile Payments," Communications & Strategies, IDATE, Com&Strat dept., vol. 1(79), pages 95-114, 3rd quart.
    19. 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.
    20. Kay, Benjamin S. & Manuszak, Mark D. & Vojtech, Cindy M., 2014. "Bank Profitability and Debit Card Interchange Regulation: Bank Responses to the Durbin Amendment," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2014-77, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    21. Julian Wright, 2012. "Why payment card fees are biased against retailers," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(4), pages 761-780, December.
    22. 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.
    23. Anna Creti & Marianne Verdier, 2011. "Fraud, Investments and Liability Regimes in Payment Platforms," EconomiX Working Papers 2011-31, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    interchange fees; merchant fees; payment card associations;

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L42 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Vertical Restraints; Resale Price Maintenance; Quantity Discounts
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law

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