Unless the card industry posts an usually strong fourth quarter 1997 will go down as a very sluggish year. Between Jan 1 and Sept 30 receivables have grown a mere 2.8%, the number of gross accounts is only up 60 basis points and the number of cards-in- force has only inched up by 1.7%. The data are based on Bankcard Update/CardData’s quarterly portfolio surveys of 315 issuers, updated monthly. The number of active accounts declined 2.8% this year with the percentage of active accounts vs. gross accounts dropping from 68% to 66%, on average. Historically the industry posts a strong fourth quarter but holiday retail sales have sagged again this year. Last year industry receivables grew 3.4% and the number of accounts increased by 2.4% during the fourth quarter. Despite the weak financials for the industry, this year will go down as the year of platinum cards and of mergers/acquisitions. Some surveys are pointing to a five fold increase in platinum cards this year, from two million to ten million. Completed and pending mergers/acquisitions have topped $50 billion in receivables.
BANK CREDIT CARD INDUSTRY YTD SNAPSHOT 97-3 97-2 97-1 96-4 Receivables $416.2b 404.5b 392.7b 404.7b Volume $207.2b 197.7b 169.8b 195.2b Gross Accts 313.0m 309.9m 308.1m 311.1m Actives Accts 205.9m 206.3m 209.8m 211.9m Cards 450.9m 451.4m 449.2m 443.3m Volume includes purchases and cash advances but excludes debit; Cards excludes debit and business cards; Source: Bankcard Update/CardData