The number of new credit card accounts opened by consumers this year has grown considerably over the totals from last year, and much of that might be the result of marketing to borrowers who previously did not have access to credit.
The number of new credit cards issued by both banks and lenders between the months of January and August grew to a total of 46.3 million, up considerably from the same eight-month period last year, according to the latest National Credit Trends Report from the credit monitoring bureau Equifax. That's up from 39.9 million in 2010.
In all, the number of new accounts issued by banks climbed 25 percent, to a total of 25.3 million, up from 20.2 million in 2010, the report said. Meanwhile, new retailer credit card accounts issued between January and August hit 21 million, an increase of 7 percent over last year's total of 19.7 million.
One possible reason for the significant increase in the number of new credit cards issued to consumers is that banks in particular are now issuing far more credit card accounts to consumers who have subprime credit ratings, the report said. In all, the number of cards granted to consumers who have credit scores of less than 600 increased 56 percent from January to August on a year-over-year basis.
Meanwhile, the total amount of new credit issued to consumers across credit cards, auto loans, student loans and home equity grew to a total of $514 billion in the eight-month period, the report said. However, that's still well-below the $942 billion seen during that time in 2006, before the recession hit.
"On the whole, the lending industry is experiencing dramatically mixed results depending on sector," said Michael Koukounas, senior vice president of special client services for Equifax. "Bank credit card and auto lending, in particular, have consistently performed strongly this year, providing some ground for optimism, but the severe retraction within home equity lending continues to underscore the level of impact that declining home values are having on the economy."
Consumers are expected to increase the amount they borrow on their credit cards once again this holiday season, in keeping with seasonal norms. In addition, many lenders are likely to increase marketing of new accounts during this time in hopes of drawing in even more new customers.