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Consumers' use of debit cards: patterns, preferences, and price response

  • Ron Borzekowski
  • Elizabeth K. Kiser
  • Shaista Ahmed

Debit card use at the point of sale has grown dramatically in recent years in the U.S., and now exceeds the number of credit card transactions. However, many questions remain regarding patterns of debit card use, consumer preferences when using debit, and how consumers might respond to explicit pricing of card transactions. Using a new nationally representative consumer survey, this paper describes the current use of debit cards by U.S. consumers, including how demographics affect use. In addition, consumers' stated reasons for using debit cards are used to analyze how consumers substitute between debit and other payment instruments. We also examine the relationship between household financial conditions and payment choice. Finally, we use a key variable on bank-imposed transaction fees to analyze price sensitivity of card use, and find a 12 percent decline in overall use in reaction to a mean 1.8 percent fee charged on certain debit card transactions; we believe this represents the first microeconomic evidence in the United States on price sensitivity for a card payment at the point of sale.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2006-16.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2006-16
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  1. Hayashi Fumiko & Klee Elizabeth, 2003. "Technology Adoption and Consumer Payments: Evidence from Survey Data," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 2(2), pages 1-16, June.
  2. David Humphrey & Moshe Kim & Bent Vale, 1998. "Realizing the gains from electronic payments: costs, pricing, and payment choice," Proceedings 586, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
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  4. Gene Amromin & Carrie Jankowski & Richard D. Porter, 2005. "Transforming payment choices by doubling fees on the Illinois Tollway," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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  6. 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.
  7. James X. Sullivan, 2005. "Borrowing during unemployment: unsecured debt as a safety net," Proceedings 958, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  8. 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.
  9. Hirschman, Elizabeth C, 1982. "Consumer Payment Systems: The Relationship of Attribute Structure to Preference and Usage," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(4), pages 531-45, October.
  10. Marc Rysman, 2004. "Competition Between Networks: A Study of the Market for Yellow Pages," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 483-512.
  11. Nicole Jonker, 2005. "Payment Instruments as Perceived by Consumers - a Public Survey," DNB Working Papers 053, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
  12. Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 15-25, 01-02.
  13. repec:rne:rneart:v:5:y:2006:i:1:p:71-102 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Schwartz Marius & Vincent Daniel R., 2006. "The No Surcharge Rule and Card User Rebates: Vertical Control by a Payment Network," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, March.
  15. Carow, Kenneth A. & Staten, Michael E., 1999. "Debit, credit, or cash: survey evidence on gasoline purchases," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 51(5), pages 409-421, September.
  16. Chang Howard & Evans David S. & Garcia Swartz Daniel D., 2005. "The Effect of Regulatory Intervention in Two-Sided Markets: An Assessment of Interchange-Fee Capping in Australia," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(4), pages 1-31, December.
  17. Chakravorti, Sujit & To, Ted, 2007. "A theory of credit cards," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 583-595, June.
  18. 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.
  19. Geoffrey R. Gerdes & Jack K. Walton II & May X. Liu & Darrel W. Parke, 2005. "Trends in the use of payment instruments in the United States," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Spr, pages 180-201.
  20. repec:reg:rpubli:338 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Elizabeth K. Kiser, 2002. "Household switching behavior at depository institutions: evidence from survey data," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-44, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  22. Marc Rysman, 2004. "Competition Between Networks: A�Study of the Market for Yellow�Pages," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(2), pages 483-512, 04.
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