For Immediate Release
March 8, 2016
ABA Media Contact: Jeff Sigmund
(202) 663-5439
Email: jsigmund@aba.com
Follow us on Twitter: @ABABankers

ABA Report: Credit Card Market Expands as Consumers Drive Economic Growth

WASHINGTON — The credit card market continued to expand in last year’s third quarter as monthly purchase volumes increased modestly across all risk categories, according to the American Bankers Association’s latest Credit Card Market Monitor report.  On a year-over-year basis, purchase volumes rose 6.1 percent for subprime accounts, 4.2 percent for prime accounts and 3.5 percent for super-prime accounts.
 
The March 2016 Monitor, reflecting data from the third quarter of 2015, also found that the number of new credit card accounts increased to 78.9 million — up 16.5 percent from a year earlier.  While this included a 30 percent year-over-year increase in subprime accounts, the subprime segment remains one-third below levels seen in the first quarter of 2008.  The number of open credit card accounts also increased to 320 million (up 5.0 percent from a year prior), driven by moderate gains across all three risk groups.
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“Recent growth in the credit card market is consistent with what we’re seeing in the broader economy,” said Jess Sharp, executive director of ABA’s Card Policy Council. “With nearly six million jobs created over the last two years, it’s natural to see strong growth in new cards and purchase volumes.  Faster wage growth and healthy levels of disposable income have helped shore up many account holders who may have had difficulty managing their credit in the past.  Consumers are now in a better position to pay on time and rebuild their credit.”
 
Consumers Continue Disciplined Credit Card Use
 
The ABA report also provides evidence that consumers continue to spend within their means.  Credit card credit outstanding as a share of disposable income ticked up slightly to 5.38 percent in the third quarter, while the effective finance charge yield (a measure of credit card interest payments) was essentially flat.  Both metrics remain near post-recession lows. 
 
The share of Revolver accounts (account holders who carry a monthly balance) increased 0.7 percentage points to 41.7 percent of all accounts, but also remains near post-recession lows.  The increase in Revolvers occurred mostly at the expense of Dormant accounts, which declined by 0.6 percentage points to 28.8 percent of all accounts.  The share of Transactors (account holders who pay their balance in full each month) was essentially flat, falling 0.1 percentage points to 29.4 percent of all accounts.
 
“Consumer spending has been driving economic growth in recent months as business investment slows,” said Sharp. “At the same time, we’re finding that consumers continue to do a good job of managing credit and keeping debt levels in check.”
 
Issuers Employ Creative Solutions to Serve More Consumers
The report provides additional evidence that card issuers are effectively managing risk while also expanding access to credit. Average credit lines for new accounts experienced solid growth overall, but the subprime channel grew at a slower pace (+1.1 percent) than the prime (+2.5 percent) and super-prime (+1.8 percent) risk tiers. This result is consistent with recent trends as issuers are increasingly willing to extend credit to borrowers with lower credit scores and/or limited credit history, but in smaller initial amounts that may increase over time as borrowers demonstrate a good payment history.
 
The full report with detailed charts and statistics is available here.
 
About the Credit Card Market Monitor
The American Bankers Association Credit Card Market Monitor is a quarterly report that provides key statistics on industry trends and relevant economic factors affecting the industry.  The credit card data used in the report is taken from a nationally representative sample provided by Argus Information Services LLC.  Credit card data are presented as national averages for all accounts based on actual credit card account information.  No individual account holder’s information or specific financial institution’s data can be identified from the data set.  Other data used in the report are taken from various public and private sources, including the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Federal Reserve.
 
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions and definitions of the data presented in the ABA Credit Card Industry Monitor can be found in an Appendix attached to the monitor. 
 
Results of this and all previous reports can be found at www.aba.com.
 
The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $16 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard $12 trillion in deposits and extend more than $8 trillion in loans.
 
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