Credit card debt puzzles and debt revolvers for self control

Carol C. Bertaut, Michael Haliassos, Michael Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most US credit card holders revolve high-interest debt, often with substantial liquid and retirement assets. We model separation of accounting from shopping allowed by credit cards, in a rational, dynamic game. When the shopper is more impatient than the accountant, selling assets to repay debt is not necessarily optimal, as the shopper can restore debt. Modest relative impatience generates asset-debt co-existence and target utilization rates, matching incidence and median assets of debt revolvers with substantial assets. Empirical evidence is consistent with a role for spending control considerations, after allowing for standard determinants of credit card debt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-692
Number of pages36
JournalReview of Finance
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • E210
  • G110

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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