November 16, 2017 Merchants universally accept cash. Consumers widely hold cash but also carry debit and credit cards. The cost of using a method of payment has only a small influence on which method consumers use. Large merchants accept all payments, while only two-thirds of small and medium-sized businesses accept credit cards. Merchants report that credit cards are the costliest payment method compared with cash and debit cards. However, costs are not the only consideration. Merchant acceptance of credit accounts for the many con-sumers that want to use credit cards. This interaction between consumers and merchants is known as network externalities.
Using data from our 2014 cost-of-payments survey, we calculate resource costs for cash, debit cards and credit cards. For each payment method, we examine the total cost incurred by consumers, retailers, financial institutions and infrastructures, the Royal Canadian Mint and the Bank of Canada.