Infographic: Store card applications surge around the holidays

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller

When do we shop at retail stores most? November and December. 
When do we apply for retail store credit cards? Not surprisingly, the same two months.
TransUnion, one of the major credit reporting bureaus, has tracked the number of private label credit cards opened per month for the past three years and the data are consistent: New accounts spike by about 50 percent during the November-December holiday shopping season.
Private label cards are those offered by a specific retailer for use with that retailer only. Think department stores such as Macy’s and Kohls, retail apparel brands such as American Eagle, superstores such as Target and Walmart, online powerhouses such as Amazon, and gas stations such as BP. All issue their own private label cards, as do dozens of other retailers and brands.
Because many store cards push special sign-up promotions as the end of the year approaches, such as an attractive discount at checkout on the day you apply for the card, they can be especially appealing during the budget-taxing holiday shopping season.
From January through October of 2016, the number of store cards opened per month averaged 1.03 million cards. That includes a low outlier of fewer than 500,000 in September. After rising back to about the monthly average in October, the number of cards opened in November and December each hit new highs for the year.
The combined November-December average was 1.53 million new cards a month, or 48 percent higher than the January-October mean. Isolating December’s monthly total highlights an even more dramatic rise: At almost 1.7 million new cards, December 2016 saw about 63 percent more new cards than the typical month. 
TransUnion releases its <a href="https://newsroom.transunion.com/as-black-friday-nears-a-record-196-million-consumers-now-have-access-to-various-forms-of-credit-cards-and-other-revolving-lines-of-credit/" target="_blank"><b>Industry Insights Report</b></a> every quarter to provide its latest analysis of the current consumer credit market and its historical trends.

 

When do we shop at retail stores most? November and December. 

When do we apply for retail store credit cards? Not surprisingly, the same two months.

TransUnion, one of the major credit reporting bureaus, tracked the number of private label credit cards opened per month for the past three years and the data are consistent: New accounts spike by about 50 percent during the November-December holiday shopping season.

Private label cards are those offered by a specific retailer for use with that retailer only. Think department stores such as Macy’s and Kohls, retail apparel brands such as American Eagle, superstores such as Target and Walmart, online powerhouses such as Amazon, and gas stations such as BP. All issue their own private label cards, as do dozens of other retailers and brands.

Because many store cards push special sign-up promotions as the end of the year approaches, such as an attractive discount at checkout on the day you apply for the card, they can be especially appealing during the budget-taxing holiday shopping season.

From January through October of 2016, the number of store cards opened per month averaged 1.03 million cards. That includes a low outlier of fewer than 500,000 in September. After rebounding to about the monthly average in October, the number of cards opened in November and December each hit new highs for the year.

The combined November-December average was 1.53 million new cards a month, or 48 percent higher than the January-October mean. Isolating December’s monthly total highlights an even more dramatic rise: At almost 1.7 million new cards, December 2016 saw about 63 percent more new cards than the typical month. 

TransUnion releases its Industry Insights Report every quarter to provide its latest analysis of the current consumer credit market and its historical trends.

CreditCards.com Infographic: Store card applications surge before the holidays

See related: 2017 Retail Card Survey, Best retail credit cards, Retail credit card reviews, Retailer gone bankrupt? What you should do, Why I don't fear retail credit cards, More infographics

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Updated: 01-21-2018