financial services

First-Quarter Credit Card Offers Up 29%

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During the first quarter of 2010, U.S. households received 481.3 million credit card offers, a 29% increase versus the 372.4 million offers mailed during the same time a year ago, according to Synovate Mail Monitor, the direct mail tracking service from global market research firm Synovate. 

Capital One was one of the largest mailers for the quarter, second only to Chase. In its first-quarter earnings statement, Capital One announced its intention to re-enter the subprime market after an almost 100% pullback in Q3 2009. True to that commitment, Capital One more than doubled their mailed card offers versus the prior quarter.

However, this wasn't the only surprise. HSBC, which had briefly considered leaving the U.S. credit card industry behind, doubled its mail volume in the first quarter versus the fourth quarter of 2009 and more than tripled its mailings versus one year ago.



"This is a massive commitment in terms of expenditure for the issuers as direct mail is one of the most expensive channels to acquire new cardholders," said Anuj Shahani, director of competitive tracking services for Synovate's Financial Services group, in a release. "This tells us that the issuers are not just dipping their toes in the water, they are diving in headfirst."

During the recession of 2009, legislative pressure caused issuers to dramatically pull back on offers, and annual mail volume dropped to its lowest levels since 1993. However, the trickle began to increase to a stream late last year.

"In Q4 2009, we began to see issuers release the pause button and mail more, and in Q1 2010 that trend continues," Shahani says. "Throughout the remainder of the year we expect to see mail volume continue its slow climb upward."

In addition to receiving more offers, U.S. households received better offers, according to the study. Credit card issuers determined to take on new debt extended introductory purchase APRs while shying away from balance transfers.

About 65% of the total mailed offers for first-quarter 2010 carried an introductory purchase APR versus 58% in fourth-quarter 2009. However, only 54% of offers carried an introductory rate for balance transfers in first-quarter 2010 versus 66% a year ago.

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