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Limited and Varying Consumer Attention: Evidence from Shocks to the Salience of Bank Overdraft Fees

  • Victor Stango
  • Jonathan Zinman

We explore dynamics of limited attention in the $35 billion market for checking overdrafts, using survey content as shocks to the salience of overdraft fees. Conditional on selection into surveys, individuals who face overdraft-related questions are less likely to incur a fee in the survey month. Taking multiple overdraft surveys builds a "stock" of attention that reduces overdrafts for up to two years. The effects are significant among consumers with lower education and financial literacy. Individuals avoid overdrafts by making fewer low-balance debit transactions and cancelling automatic recurring withdrawals. The results raise new questions about consumer financial protection policy.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17028.

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Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Limited and Varying Consumer Attention: Evidence from Shocks to the Salience of Bank Overdraft Fees, forthcoming, Review of Financial Studies, with Victor Stango
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17028
Note: LE
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  1. Kolko, Jed, 2010. "A new measure of US residential broadband availability," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 132-143, April.
  2. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "In A World Without Borders: The Impact Of Taxes On Internet Commerce," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 561-576, May.
  3. Nicola Lacetera & Devin G. Pope & Justin R. Sydnor, 2012. "Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 2206-36, August.
  4. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2005. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," NBER Working Papers 11755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jonathan Zinman, 2007. "Where is the missing credit card debt? Clues and implications," Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper 07-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  6. Bertrand, Marianne & Karlan, Dean & Mullainathan, Sendhil & Shafir, Eldar & Zinman, Jonathan, 2009. "What's Advertising Content Worth? Evidence from a Consumer Credit Marketing Field Experiment," Working Papers 58, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  7. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "What Do Consumers Really Pay on Their Checking and Credit Card Accounts? Explicit, Implicit, and Avoidable Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 424-29, May.
  8. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2006. "Consideration Sets and Competitive Marketing," MPRA Paper 21434, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 03 Sep 2009.
  9. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2008. "Learning in the Credit Card Market," NBER Working Papers 13822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Jeffrey T. Prince, 2008. "Repeat Purchase amid Rapid Quality Improvement: Structural Estimation of Demand for Personal Computers," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(1), pages 1-33, 03.
  11. Dean Karlan & Margaret McConnell & Sendhil Mullainathan & Jonathan Zinman, 2010. "Getting to the Top of Mind: How Reminders Increase Saving," Working Papers 988, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
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