Like junkies with a habit that is spinning out of control, banks are hooked on the fat spreads to be made in consumer credit card lending. Craving the ever greater volume required to produce profitability, banks continue to madly solicit new credit card customers even as consumer bankruptcies hit an all-time high, eroding the banks' easy profits from underneath.

With unemployment hitting lows unseen in decades and the economy seemingly strong across many fronts, nobody is ready to claim the consumer credit sky is about to fall on credit card issuers. Yet, there have been disturbing signs. Advanta Corp. racked up stunning losses early this year following aggressive credit card solicitations. Since then, credit card solicitations industry-wide have hit record levels with 881 million solicitations mailed in the second quarter of 1997 alone, according to published reports.

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