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Why use debit instead of credit? Consumer choice in a trillion-dollar market
Debit cards are overtaking credit cards as the most prevalent form of electronic payment at the point of sale, yet the determinants of a ubiquitous consumer choice-"debit or credit?"-have received relatively little scrutiny. Several stylized facts suggest that debit-card use is driven by behavioral factors. The popular view is that debit-card use presents a puzzle for canonical economic models. However, we should not overlook standard cost-based motives for using debit cards. Principally, the 50 percent of debit-card users who revolve credit-card balances would pay interest to charge ...
Observing unobservables: identifying information asymmetries with a consumer-credit field experiment
Information asymmetries are important in theory but difficult to identify in practice. We estimate the empirical importance of adverse selection and moral hazard in a consumer credit market using a new field experiment methodology derived from theoretical models. We randomized 58,000 direct mail offers issued by a major South African lender along three dimensions: 1) the initial "offer interest rate" appearing on the direct mail solicitations; 2) a "contract interest rate" equal to or less than the offer interest rate and revealed to the over 4,000 borrowers who agreed to the initial ...
Public policy - CRA: discussion comments
Debit or credit?
Consumers make millions of payments at retail establishments, also known as point of sale or POS transactions. Fifty years ago consumers had only two POS payment options?cash or check. Now they have many choices: credit card, check, cash, store-issued charge card, stored-value card, debit card, or EFT. How do they decide which payment method to use? Is cost a major factor? What about demographic characteristics? Does the dollar value of the transaction determine the selection? What has caused consumers to switch from checks to electronic payments? How are incentives (e.g., miles) influencing ...
Where is the missing credit card debt? Clues and implications
Jonathan Zinman, an assistant professor of economics at Dartmouth College and a visiting scholar with the Payment Cards Center, makes a casual comparison of industry and household data sets which suggests that households underreport credit card borrowing by a factor of three. This paper offers some reassurance and several new stylized facts. Accounting for differences in definitions between household and industry measures reduces debt underreporting to a factor of two. Underreporting is less severe for general-purpose than for other cards. The true underreporting factor has remained stable ...
We Are All Behavioral, More or Less: Measuring and Using Consumer-Level Behavioral Sufficient Statistics
Can a behavioral sufficient statistic empirically capture cross-consumer variation in behavioral tendencies and help identify whether behavioral biases, taken together, are linked to material consumer welfare losses? Our answer is yes. We construct simple consumer-level behavioral sufficient statistics??B-counts??by eliciting seventeen potential sources of behavioral biases per person, in a nationally representative panel, in two separate rounds nearly three years apart. B-counts aggregate information on behavioral biases within-person. Nearly all consumers exhibit multiple biases, in ...
In harm’s way? Payday loan access and military personnel performance
Does borrowing at 400 percent APR do more harm than good? The Pentagon asserts that payday loans harm military readiness and successfully lobbied for a binding 36 percent APR cap on loans to military members and their families (effective October 1, 2007). But existing evidence on how access to high-interest debt affects borrower behavior is inconclusive. We use within-state variation in state lending laws and exogenous variation in the assignment of Air Force personnel to bases in different states to estimate the effect of payday loan access on personnel outcomes. We find significant average ...
Restricting consumer credit access: household survey evidence on effects around the Oregon rate cap
Many policymakers and some behavioral models hold that restricting access to expensive credit helps consumers by preventing overborrowing. The author examines some short-run effects of restricting access, using household panel survey data on payday loan users collected around the imposition of binding restrictions on payday loan terms in Oregon. The results suggest that borrowing fell in Oregon relative to Washington, with former payday loan users shifting partially into plausibly inferior substitutes. Additional evidence suggests that restricting access caused deterioration in the overall ...
Limited and varying consumer attention: evidence from shocks to the salience of bank overdraft fees
The authors 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. Consumers avoid overdrafts not by increasing balances but by making fewer debit transactions ...