Bank card originations increased sharply last quarter, reaching their highest level since the financial crisis as more creditworthy customers took out new cards.
Total bankcard origination volume rose 21% in the second quarter compared with the same period in 2012, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the credit bureau Experian. Banks originated cards with a total credit limit of $69 billion last quarter, compared with $57 billion in the second quarter of 2012 and $59 billion in the first quarter of this year.
It was the highest origination volume since banks issued cards with total limits of $70 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to Experian. Originations peaked at $103 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007, and bottomed out at $37 billion in the second quarter of 2010.
"Bank card originations continue to track with the recovery in terms of steady growth," Linda Haran, a senior director for Experian, said in a news release. "While we may never hit the volumes we saw in 2007, the consistent growth rates that we are currently seeing in bank card originations signal that the market is coming back online."
The increase was led by issuances to customers with good credit scores, rather than by banks' lowering their credit standards to attract new customers. Banks issued cards with limits of $26.2 billion to customers with "prime" ratings and $16.4 billion to "near-prime" customers. These are increases of 36% and 43%, respectively, over the same period in 2012.
Issuance to less creditworthy customers also rose, but less sharply: subprime issuances increased 23%, to $5.3 billion in total limits.
The higher issuances have not come at the cost of looser credit, as total risk exposure, chargeoffs and delinquencies have also fallen, Experian said.
"Prime and near-prime bankcard utilization rates are not as high as they were a year ago," Haran said in the news release. "This is a positive trend, because it shows that despite an increase in new bank card users, consumers are managing their credit wisely."