Economic Theory

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 505–530

Why are credit card rates sticky?

  • Loretta J. Mester
Research Articles

DOI: 10.1007/BF01213621

Cite this article as:
Mester, L.J. Econ Theory (1994) 4: 505. doi:10.1007/BF01213621


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.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Loretta J. Mester
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Research DepartmentFederal Reserve Bank of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.The Wharton SchoolUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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