| November 3, 2011

Consumer credit card issuing climbs again

The amount of credit cards carried by consumers across the country rose dramatically in the month of September, and with it went the amount people were allowed to borrow, and Americans took full advantage.

The number of new credit cards issued in the U.S. by both banks and retailers rose considerably in September as lenders were less tight-fisted with credit restrictions in light of continuing improvements in rates of both delinquency and default, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

The latest National Credit Trends Report from the credit monitoring bureau Equifax showed that the number of new bank-issued credit cards rose 25.3 percent on a year-over-year basis to a total of 21.6 million. In addition, private-label retail credit cards jumped 6.9 percent to a total of 18.2 million.

And with all those new accounts came a larger amount of credit that was available to consumers, the report said. The total amount consumers could borrow on bank-issued credit cards rose 25.4 percent from September 2010 to a total of $83.3 billion, while retailer credit cards saw available credit rise 4.3 percent to $31.7 billion.

The rise in both available credit and the number of new credit cards being issued is largely being attributed to slackening lending restrictions from financial institutions, the report said. Every one of the nation’s largest credit card lenders has seen delinquency and charge off rates tumble considerably over the last year, and many report that these rates now sit at or near all-time lows.

“As the delinquency profiles of these portfolios continue to get better…the lenders are getting more comfortable lending credit out there,” Michael Koukounas, senior vice president of special client services at Equifax, told the newspaper. “People are being… smart about what they’re doing from a credit perspective.”

Many experts believe these drops are the result of consumers becoming more cautious with credit card spending and increasingly conscientious about paying their bills in full and on time. Consumers may have shied away from credit card use in recent years after running into trouble handling their outstanding balances. However, a number may have also turned to the help of certified and experienced financial professionals working at credit counseling agencies, who work diligently to help clients get their finances back on track.

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