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Review of Network Economics

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Volume 15, Issue 3


Merchant Acceptance of Payment Cards: “Must Take” or “Wanna Take”?

David Bounie
  • Corresponding author
  • Telecom ParisTech, CNRS, i3-SES, Department of Economics and Social Sciences (ESS), Paris, France
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Abel François
  • Telecom ParisTech, CNRS, i3-SES, Department of Economics and Social Sciences (ESS), Paris, France
  • University of Lille 1, Sciences and Technologies (LEM UMR 9221), Villeneuve d’Ascq, Lille, France
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Leo Van Hove
Published Online: 2017-10-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/rne-2017-0011


In recent years, regulators in various parts of the world have capped interchange fees on debit and credit cards. The justification for the caps rests to a large extent on the argument that these cards have, for certain merchants, become must-take cards rather than “wanna-take cards.” That is, there are merchants who accept payment cards not because they bring net convenience benefits but out of fear of losing profitable business to card-accepting competitors. This paper presents an original approach that allows to quantify, for the first time, the relative importance of the two motivations. We find, for the case of France in 2008, that the must-take phenomenon effectively exists, but that it applies to only 5.8–19.8 percent of the card-accepting merchants and to a mere 3.9–13.5 percent of all retailers.

Keywords: interchange fees; merchants; must-take cards; network externalities; payment cards; two-sided markets

JEL Classification: E42; L81; D4


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-10-11

Published in Print: 2016-09-26

Citation Information: Review of Network Economics, Volume 15, Issue 3, Pages 117–146, ISSN (Online) 1446-9022, ISSN (Print) 2194-5993, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/rne-2017-0011.

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