The number of credit card accounts in the U.S. is increasing on both a quarterly and yearly basis as the economy and job growth continue to improve, according to the American Bankers Association's latest Credit Card Market Monitor report. The number of new credit card accounts rose 16.5% to 78.9 million in the third quarter of 2015 from the third quarter of 2014.
New accounts across all risk categories, such as prime or subprime accounts, increased in the third quarter last year. The overall increase to 78.9 million does include a 30% year-over-year jump in subprime accounts, but they remain below pre-recession levels, according to the ABA.
"On a year-over-year basis, purchase volumes increased 6.1% for subprime accounts, 4.2% for prime accounts and 3.5% for super-prime accounts,” according to an ABA statement. "The number of open credit card accounts also increased to 320 million (up 5% from a year prior), driven by moderate gains across all three risk groups.” The ABA’s report also shows that consumers' reliance on their credit cards remains low. In the third quarter of 2015, credit card payments as a share of disposable income increased slightly to 5.38%, while interest payments remained flat, according to the ABA. The share of credit card account holders who carry a balance from month-to-month rose by 0.7 percentage points to 41.7%, but those figures also remain near post-recession lows."Consumer spending has been driving economic growth in recent months as business investment slows," said Jess Sharp, executive director of ABA’s Card Policy Council. "At the same time, we’re finding that consumers continue to do a good job of managing credit and keeping debt levels in check.
"Recent growth in the credit card market is consistent with what we’re seeing in the broader economy. With nearly six million jobs created over the last two years, it’s natural to see strong growth in new cards and purchase volumes. Faster wage growth and healthy levels of disposable income have helped shore up many account holders who may have had difficulty managing their credit in the past," Sharp said.
Consumers appear to now be in a better position to pay on time and rebuild their credit.
"The increase in ’revolvers’ occurred mostly at the expense of dormant accounts, which declined by 0.6 percentage points to 28.8% of all accounts. The share of ’transactors’ (account holders who pay their balance in full each month) was essentially flat, falling 0.1 percentage points to 29.4% of all accounts,” according to the ABA.
Average credit line amounts increased among all accounts, with the exception of a small decrease for subprime accounts. According to the report, the average credit line for super-prime accounts was $11,063, $7,076 for prime accounts and $3,510 for subprime accounts.