Credit Card Offers Dry Up For Subprime Customers

In the last quarter of 2007, the number of direct mail offers sent out by credit card issuers dropped 14% to 1.286 billion from nearly 1.502 billion in the same quarter of 2006, according to Mail Monitor, a direct mail monitoring service from Synovate.

Among issuers who sent out fewer mail offers were those focused primarily upon the subprime credit card market, such as Washington Mutual and HSBC, whose mailings decreased by 73% and 34%, respectively. Citi and Discover, issuers who were impacted by the subprime mortgage crisis, each also cut their mailings in half. These moves represent an effort to reduce exposure to further bad debt, according to Andrew Davidson, Vice President of Competitive Tracking Services for Synovate’s Financial Services Group.

In the meantime, other issuers have moved in to fill the void. Chase in particular has stepped up its direct mailings, increasing them by 62% in the latest quarter, so that now every one in four credit card mail offers sent out is by Chase. American Express, which also targets only prime customers, increased its mailings by 27%.

In addition, examination of direct mail offers show that issuers are tightening their terms. According to Davidson, 57% of households with incomes under $35,000 received an offer in Q4 2007, compared to 67% in Q4 2006. And despite the fact that the prime rate dropped by a point during the quarter, the single/go-to APR on variable rate offers increased to 13.96% versus 13.48% in Q4 2006.

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