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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page The Choice at the Checkout: Competition Among Payment Instruments
Ron Borzekowski and Elizabeth K. Kiser

Abstract: Dramatic changes have occurred in the U.S. payment system over the past two decades, most notably an explosion in electronic card-based payments. Not surprisingly, this shift has been accompanied by a series of policy debates, all of which hinge critically on understanding consumer behavior at the point of sale. Using a new nationally representative survey, we transform consumers' responses to open-ended questions on reasons for using debit cards to estimate a characteristics-based discrete-choice demand model that includes debit cards, cash, checks, and credit cards. Market shares computed using this model line up well with aggregate shares from other sources. The estimates are used to conduct several counterfactual experiments that predict consumer responses to alternative payment choices. We find that consumers respond strongly to elapsed time at the checkout counter and to whether the payment instrument draws from debt or liquidity. In addition, substitution patterns vary substantially with demographics. New "contactless" payment methods designed to replace debit cards are predicted to draw market share from cash, checks, and credit, in that order. Finally, although we find an effect of cohort on payment technology adoption, this effect is unlikely to diminish substantially over a 10-year horizon.

Keywords: Payments, debit, price response

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Last update: May 8, 2006