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Paying for payments: free payments and optimal interchange fees

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  • Korsgaard, Søren

Abstract

Do consumers and merchants use the most efficient payment instruments? I examine how inter- change fees, which are fees paid from merchants' banks to consumers' banks when card transactions take place, influence the choice between cash and payment cards. I show that when consumers do not pay transaction fees to banks - a common feature in bank contracts - card use is declining in interchange fees, and surcharging does not neutralize interchange fees. According to my model, banks set interchange fees at too high a level, resulting in too few card payments. I derive an optimal interchange fee which depends only on the relative costs of producing cash and card payments and can be used by regulators to assess privately set interchange fees. When calibrated to cost data, the model implies an optimal fee that is low and may even be negative. The findings are consistent with empirical evidence of high card usage in countries with no interchange fees and have implications for the regulation of interchange fees. JEL Classification: E42, G21, G28

Suggested Citation

  • Korsgaard, Søren, 2014. "Paying for payments: free payments and optimal interchange fees," Working Paper Series 1682, European Central Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20141682
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bolt, Wilko & Jonker, Nicole & van Renselaar, Corry, 2010. "Incentives at the counter: An empirical analysis of surcharging card payments and payment behaviour in the Netherlands," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 1738-1744, August.
    2. 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.
    3. Jean‐Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2006. "Two‐sided markets: a progress report," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(3), pages 645-667, September.
    4. Zenger, Hans, 2011. "Perfect surcharging and the tourist test interchange fee," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 2544-2546, October.
    5. Zhu Wang, 2012. "Debit card interchange fee regulation: some assessments and considerations," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue 3Q, pages 159-182.
    6. Ron Borzekowski & K. Kiser Elizabeth & Ahmed Shaista, 2008. "Consumers' Use of Debit Cards: Patterns, Preferences, and Price Response," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 40(1), pages 149-172, February.
    7. Julian Wright, 2004. "The Determinants of Optimal Interchange Fees in Payment Systems," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 1-26, March.
    8. Marianne Verdier, 2011. "Interchange Fees In Payment Card Systems: A Survey Of The Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(2), pages 273-297, April.
    9. 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.
    10. Oz Shy & Zhu Wang, 2011. "Why Do Payment Card Networks Charge Proportional Fees?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1575-1590, June.
    11. Heffernan, Shelagh A., 2002. "How do UK financial institutions really price their banking products?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 26(10), pages 1997-2016, October.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    financial regulation; interchange fees; payments;

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation

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