The Future of Charge Card Networks

Alex J. Pollock and
headshot of Alex Pollock
Alex J. Pollock Senior Fellow - Mises Institute, Former President and Chief Executive Officer - Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago
Robert E. Litan

February 1, 2006

Executive Summary

The general-purpose charge card is now ubiquitous and largely taken for granted. Annual charge card volume exceeds $5 trillion worldwide. Within the United States, nearly one billion cards are in use (about eight per household), and more than two billion worldwide. But charge cards, or more specifically, the cooperative networks that serve the largest card systems, Visa and MasterCard, are under legal attack through multiple lawsuits and under regulatory challenge in other countries. We trace in this essay multiple possible future “scenarios.” This focus on possible futures distinguishes our work from many earlier studies of this subject.