IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Micropayments: the final frontier for electronic consumer payments


  • James C. McGrath


Small payments of less than $5 have resisted the wave of electronification that has swept consumer payments in recent years. However, a number of innovations — both new technologies and new ways of doing business — have done much to make such electronic “micropayments” less expensive and more convenient. Now, having proven themselves in several online markets, micropayments are poised to make inroads at the physical point of sale. This paper looks at some of the success stories (and failures), both in the U.S. and abroad, to identify possible conditions for success and to gauge the outlook for the future. It finds that industry structure, the coordination of standards, and customer preferences and experiences have all influenced the development of these products. While different markets around the world have supported different types of solutions, the successful products have delivered clear utility to the consumer, along with compelling economics for the different parties in the value chain. With critical mass in sight, the future looks promising.

Suggested Citation

  • James C. McGrath, 2006. "Micropayments: the final frontier for electronic consumer payments," Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper 06-04, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpdp:06-04

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christopher R. Knittel & Victor Stango, 2003. "Price Ceilings as Focal Points for Tacit Collusion: Evidence from Credit Cards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1703-1729, December.
    2. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2002. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 149-185.
    3. Calem, Paul S & Mester, Loretta J, 1995. "Consumer Behavior and the Stickiness of Credit-Card Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1327-1336, December.
    4. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The Reaction of Consumer Spending and Debt to Tax Rebates-Evidence from Consumer Credit Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 986-1019, December.
    5. Sumit Agarwal & Souphala Chomsisengphet & Neale Mahoney & Johannes Stroebel, 2015. "Do Banks Pass Through Credit Expansions to Consumers Who Want to Borrow?," NBER Working Papers 21567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Calem, Paul S. & Gordy, Michael B. & Mester, Loretta J., 2006. "Switching costs and adverse selection in the market for credit cards: New evidence," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1653-1685, June.
    7. Sanchez, Juan M., 2014. "Paying down credit card debt: a breakdown by income and age," The Regional Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, April.
    8. Meta Brown & Andrew F. Haughwout & Donghoon Lee & Wilbert Van der Klaauw, 2013. "The financial crisis at the kitchen table: trends in household debt and credit," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 19(April).
    9. Victor Stango, 2000. "Competition And Pricing In The Credit Card Market," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(3), pages 499-508, August.
    10. Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 2003. "Consumer Response to Tax Rebates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 381-396, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Cronin, David & McGuinness, Anne, 2010. "Retail Payment Practices. How They Have Evolved in Recent Times and Where They Might Be Going," Quarterly Bulletin Articles, Central Bank of Ireland, pages 56-82, April.

    More about this item


    Electronic funds transfers;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fedpdp:06-04. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Beth Paul). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.