Payment Card News

Saturation or Maturation

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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

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