Investment banker Robert Hammer said there were 12 credit card portfolio sales in the first six months of this year, totaling $5.15 billion. The average weighted premium of those deals was 17.9%.

This includes Household International's planned $3.4 billion purchase of the Bank of New York's AFL-CIO portfolio, said Mr. Hammer, the chief executive of R.K. Investment Bankers.

During 1995, by comparison, there were 19 deals for $910 million. The 1995 average premium was 20.7%.

"Keen competition for cardholders has caused many to look at profitably buying portfolios in bulk rather than just balance transferring accounts one at a time to offset attrition," Mr. Hammer said.

Most of this year's assets sold involved existing card issuers who remain in the business, Mr. Hammer said. Rising delinquencies tend to heighten the differences between the better and poorer performing segments of an issuer's file, he added, prompting the selling of certain pieces.

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