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

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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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  • Scott Schuh & Oz Shy & Joanna Stavins, 2010. "Who gains and who loses from credit card payments?: theory and calibrations," Public Policy Discussion Paper 10-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpp:10-3
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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.
    2. Berkovich Efraim, 2012. "Card Rewards and Cross-Subsidization in the Gasoline and Grocery Markets," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 11(4), pages 1-38, December.
    3. Lee, Manjong, 2014. "Constrained or unconstrained price for debit card payment?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 53-65.

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    Keywords

    Credit cards;

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