Inequality due to credit card fees

A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston argues that credit card reward programs contribute to income inequality. According to the Yahoo story:

Merchants usually don’t charge different prices for card users to recover the costs of fees and rewards, but instead, mark up the prices for all consumers.

As a result, people who pay cash — and who are more likely to be lower income — end up subsidizing those who pay by credit card…

After accounting for rewards paid by banks, households who earn more than $150,000 annually receive a subsidy of $756 on average every year, while the households earning $20,000 or less pay $23.

On one hand, this seems fairly obvious: those with more money to spend will use credit cards in order to earn more rewards. On the other hand, the impact on prices of the fees on business owners pay to the credit card companies is generally hidden.

Perhaps more places could offer discounts for people who pay in cash? The only time I have encountered this on a large scale is at gas stations in New Jersey.

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