VSL:SCIENCE // Read this, save money

Minimum-payment requirements seem like a good idea: Without them, credit-card holders would pay too little and let balances bloom. But a new study indicates that many of us would pay more if our statements didn’t require a minimum.

The problem with minimum-payment requirements, the study found, is that they can lower a cardholder’s sense of what a reasonable payment is — an effect known as anchoring, which was especially strong among cardholders who usually paid more than the minimum but less than the total balance. A test group of such cardholders who got credit-card bills with $700 balances and no minimum-payment requirement paid an average of $280 — about 40 percent of the balance. A control group who received similar bills that included minimums, meanwhile, paid only $161, or 23 percent of the balance — a rate of payment that would have eventually cost them twice as much interest.

Minimum payments, then, are the cardholder’s enemy — and the creditor’s friend.

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