While credit card debt was climbing steadily for most of 2008 at a 5% annual clip, the bottom fell out in the final three months of the year. As a result, credit card balances were anything but outstanding for 2008 as the nation’s top issuers ended the year with essentially no growth. The nation’s top four issuers of primarily Visa and MasterCards, with total credit card loans of more than $500 billion, posted a year-on-year gain of only +0.2%. Annual growth was largely dampened by the extraordinary weak holiday spending and lower fuel prices coupled with proactive risk management actions such as tightening credit standards, reducing credit lines and closing inactive accounts. Together, BofA, Chase, Citi and Cap One reported $510 billion in year-end credit card outstandings, compared to $509 billion for year-end 2007, according to cardtrak.com. Chase posted the strongest gain of 3.6%, excluding its recently acquired WaMu portfolio. (WaMu outstandings were $28.3 billion for year-end 2008.) BofA was down 0.8% to $182.2 billion, which includes about $20 billion in non-U.S. cards. Citi’s outstanding declined 3.6% to $95.1 billion and Capital One inched up by 1.7% to $70.9 billion. Overall, the average credit card balance per carded household ended 2008 at $10,728 with a median per household of $7066, according to CardFacts.com.
CARD BALANCES 1999: $490 billion 2000: $569 billion 2001: $608 billion 2002: $661 billion 2003: $677 billion 2004: $685 billion 2005: $711 billion 2006: $775 billion 2007: $850 billion 2008: $854 billion Source: cardtrak.com