Research Articles

Economic Theory

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 505-530

First online:

Why are credit card rates sticky?

  • Loretta J. MesterAffiliated withResearch Department, Federal Reserve Bank of PhiladelphiaThe Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This paper investigates credit card rate stickiness using a screening model of consumer credit markets. In recent years, while the cost of funds has fallen, credit card rates have remained stubbornly high, spurring legislators to consider imposing interest rate ceilings on credit card rates. The model incorporates asymmetric information between consumers and banks, regarding consumers' future incomes. The unique equilibrium is one of two types: separating (in which low-risk consumers select a collateralized loan and high-risk consumers select a credit card loan), or pooling (in which both types of consumers choose credit card loans). I show that a change in the banks' cost of funds can have an ambiguous effect on the credit card rate, so that the credit card rate need not fall when the cost of funds does. Usury ceilings on credit card rates are detrimental to consumer welfare, so would be counter to their legislative intent.