Credit card direct-mail solicitations from major issuers increased sharply in the first quarter, driven largely by a resurgence in rewards card and balance-transfer offers, according to new data Mintel Comperemedia released June 2.

Issuers mailed 838 million card solicitations during the quarter, up 83% from the year earlier, as card issuers resumed marketing efforts after the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act took effect, the Chicago direct-mail tracking firm said.

Though the first-quarter surge of solicitations suggested that issuers are marketing more aggressively, the number of offers mailed to consumers so far this year is significantly lower than volume seen before the recession, said Andrew Davidson, a Mintel senior vice president.

"Even though the first-quarter mailings showed significant growth, it's still much lower than what we've seen in the past," he said, noting that from 2004 through 2007 issuers sent about 7 billion to 8 billion solicitations per year. "We expect to see a total of between 3 billion and 4 billion solicitations mailed this year."

Issuers mailed 575 million card solicitations in the fourth quarter, up 47.1% from the prior quarter. In 2009, issuers mailed 1.8 billion card solicitations, down 66.7% from 2008. So far, the CARD Act has not altered credit card products or marketing as drastically as some had feared, Davidson said.

"We are not seeing the wholesale shift to card offers with annual fees, as some suggested might happen, and we have not seen the demise of balance-transfer offers and teaser rates," he said.