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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page Debit Card Use by U.S. Consumers: Evidence from a New Survey
Ron Borzekowski, Elizabeth K. Kiser, and Shaista Ahmed

Abstract: 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.

Keywords: Payments, debit, price response

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Last update: May 8, 2006