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Minimum Payments and Debt Paydown in Consumer Credit Cards

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  • Benjamin J. Keys
  • Jialan Wang

Abstract

Using a dataset covering one quarter of the U.S. general-purpose credit card market, we document that 29% of accounts regularly make payments at or near the minimum payment. We exploit changes in issuers' minimum payment formulas to distinguish between liquidity constraints and anchoring as explanations for the prevalence of near-minimum payments. Nine to twenty percent of all accounts respond more to the formula changes than expected based on liquidity constraints alone, representing a lower bound on the role of anchoring. Disclosures implemented by the CARD Act, an example of one potential policy solution to anchoring, resulted in fewer than 1% of accounts adopting an alternative suggested payment. Based on back-of-envelope calculations, the disclosures led to $62 million in interest savings per year, but would have saved over $2 billion per year if all anchoring consumers had adopted the new suggested payment. Our results show that anchoring to a salient contractual term has a significant impact on household debt.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin J. Keys & Jialan Wang, 2016. "Minimum Payments and Debt Paydown in Consumer Credit Cards," NBER Working Papers 22742, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22742
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    3. Brett Theodos & Christina Plerhoples Stacy & Devlin Hanson & Julian Jamison & Rebecca Daniels, 2020. "Do not swipe the small stuff: A randomized evaluation of rules of thumb‐based financial education," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2), pages 701-722, June.
    4. Werthschulte, Madeline, 2020. ""Pay-later" vs. "pay-as-you-go": Experimental evidence on present-biased overconsumption and the importance of timing," ZEW Discussion Papers 20-089, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    5. Werthschulte, Madeline, 2020. ""Pay-later" vs. "pay-as-you-go": Experimental evidence on present-biased overconsumption and the importance of timing," CAWM Discussion Papers 121, University of Münster, Center of Applied Economic Research Münster (CAWM).
    6. Sebastien Bradley & Naomi E. Feldman, 2020. "Hidden Baggage: Behavioral Responses to Changes in Airline Ticket Tax Disclosure," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 58-87, November.
    7. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Oggero, Noemi, 2019. "Debt close to retirement and its implications for retirement well-being," CFS Working Paper Series 631, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    8. Abraham, Katharine G. & Filiz-Ozbay, Emel & Ozbay, Erkut Y. & Turner, Lesley J., 2020. "Framing effects, earnings expectations, and the design of student loan repayment schemes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    9. Choi, James J. & Haisley, Emily & Kurkoski, Jennifer & Massey, Cade, 2017. "Small cues change savings choices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 378-395.
    10. Kuchler, Theresa & Pagel, Michaela, 2021. "Sticking to your plan: The role of present bias for credit card paydown," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(2), pages 359-388.
    11. d’Astous, Philippe, 2019. "Responses to an anticipated increase in cash on hand: Evidence from term loan repayments," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    12. Edika G. Quispe-Torreblanca & Neil Stewart & John Gathergood & George Loewenstein, 2019. "The Red, the Black, and the Plastic: Paying Down Credit Card Debt for Hotels, Not Sofas," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(11), pages 5392-5410, November.
    13. Keys, Benjamin J. & Wang, Jialan, 2019. "Minimum payments and debt paydown in consumer credit cards," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(3), pages 528-548.
    14. Alexandrov, Alexei & Bedre-Defolie, �zlem & Grodzicki, Daniel, 2017. "Consumer Demand for Credit Card Services," CEPR Discussion Papers 12506, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • G02 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Behavioral Finance: Underlying Principles
    • 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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