Haas School of Business
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720
Institutional Affiliation: University of California at Berkeley
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|March 2017||How Debit Cards Enable the Poor to Save More|
with Pierre Bachas, Paul Gertler, Enrique Seira: w23252
We study an at-scale natural experiment in which debit cards are given to cash transfer recipients who already have a bank account. Using administrative account data and household surveys, we find that beneficiaries accumulate a savings stock equal to 2 percent of annual income after two years with the card. The increase in formal savings represents an increase in overall savings, financed by a reduction in current consumption. There are two mechanisms: first, debit cards reduce transaction costs of accessing money; second, they reduce monitoring costs, leading beneficiaries to check their account balances frequently and build trust in the bank.