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Research and Statistics

More credit card accounts are open than ever before – but new ones are declining

American Bankers Association data shows new card account openings peaked two years ago

Summary

The pace of consumers opening new credit card accounts has fallen from its peak from a couple of years ago, but that hasn’t stopped growth in super-prime accounts from pushing the total number of cards to an all-time high, according to an ABA report.

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The pace of consumers opening new credit card accounts has fallen from its peak from a couple of years ago, but that hasn’t stopped growth in super-prime accounts from pushing the total number of cards to an all-time high.

That’s according to the American Bankers Association, which has quantified the U.S. credit card market every quarter since early 2008. As of 2019 Q1, U.S. consumers held 373 million open card accounts, which is up almost 2 percent over the previous year.

New card accounts, on the other hand, appear to have peaked in mid-2017, when card accounts younger than two years old numbered more than 90 million. But for four quarters in a row, new account openings have declined, bringing their number down 5 percent from last year.

Perhaps most notable is the shift in make-up of accounts by risk category. New subprime accounts declined 10.3 percent over the year, while new prime accounts were down 7.5 percent. Meanwhile, the number of newly opened super-prime cards is holding steady.

As a result, the total number of super-prime accounts is showing 4 percent annualized growth. Having increased for 14 consecutive quarters, these low-risk accounts now comprise almost 52 percent of the card market.

The ABA’s Credit Card Market Monitor draws on data from a nationally representative sample provided by Argus Information Services. Its report on 2019 first-quarter data was released Aug. 1.

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