Credit card issuers slackening requirements

In a sign the economy is continuing to improve, the top 16 credit card lenders in the U.S. have relaxed the standards they require consumers to meet before they are granted the ability to take on new credit card debt.

For the first time since 2008, credit card underwriting standards at the nation’s 16 largest lenders have declined, portending a positive outlook from major financial institutions, according to the latest annual survey from the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. In all, 25 percent of institutions eased their lending standards in the 12-month period ending February 28, 2011.

However, a large majority of banks have either held standards steady or increased them even more, the report said. In all, 31 percent saw their requirements remain unchanged, while 44 percent beefed up lending standards.

Instances of both delinquent and charged off credit card accounts have fallen appreciably for all major U.S. lenders in the last year, significantly boosting profits due to the institutions having to set aside less money for loan loss provisions.

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