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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

    as
    1. Graeme Guthrie & Julian Wright, 2007. "Competing Payment Schemes," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 37-67, March.
    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.
    5. Chakravorti Sujit, 2003. "Theory of Credit Card Networks: A Survey of the Literature," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 2(2), pages 1-19, June.
    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, 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. Graeme Guthrie & Julian Wright, 2007. "Competing Payment Schemes," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 37-67, March.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
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    18. 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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    interchange fees; merchant fees; payment card associations;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly
    • D85 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Network Formation
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies

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