According to a recent report from the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, credit card fee structures effective charge the poor in order to reward the rich.

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The study found that households earning more than $150,000 a year gain an average annual subsidy of $756 from credit card companies, while those earning $20,000 or less pay out an average $23 a year. How does this happen? Retailers, who can't charge those who use credit cards more, charge everyone more to pay for the 1% to 3% cost of accepting credit cards. Because poor people are more likely to pay in cash, and don't get a discount for doing so, they subsidize the spending habits of the rich. In addition, higher-income folks are 20% more likely to get rewards for using their cards, according to the Fed.

Congress has already limited retailer fees for debit cards. Should it follow suit with credit cards? On one hand, the authors of the study feel that eliminating merchant fees would level the playing field between cash and credit, assuming that prices drop if merchant costs do.Consumers would be better off. On the other hand, others feel that such law could end up fattening merchants' bottom lines and making little difference for consumers. Even worse, card companies could just end up hitting the consumers up for higher fees to keep the money coming in.

What about the other fees charged to consumers? Do poor people pay higher fees and interest? Not according to the Virginia Bureau of Insurance, which claims that its study found no correlation between low income and poor credit. So, while a poor person with bad credit will be clobbered by high fees and interest, so would a rich one. The rich one may be less bothered by it, however.