A Closer Look at Payment Cards


This essay takes a closer look at the U.S. payment card system, primarily debit cards. I examine the bundle of transactional services this and other types of payment cards provide. My goal, in large part, is to assess the competitive effects of the debit card interchange fee cap under the Durbin Amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act (2011). In addition to a binding fee cap, it mandated a change in the way the fee is metered. A maximum per transaction fee of 20 cents, binding for most transactions, replaced a typical two-percent negotiated fee. I test hypothesis that the cap caused or contributed to a decline in the willingness of payment card intermediaries to invest in security, possibly increasing the system’s vulnerabilities to the kind of data breaches that have become ever more commonplace.