By year end, consumers will have received 4.2 billion credit card offers, a full-year projection from research firm Synovate that shows a 20 percent drop from the 5.2 billion card offers received in 2007.

Households with incomes under $50,000 will receive about 700,000 fewer offers this year compared to 2007. Since these households account for a majority of the credit card offer cutbacks, Synovate argues that issuers are changing their card strategies. “The souring economy and industry consolidation have driven volumes down to levels not seen since 2003,” said Andrew Davidson, vp of Competitive Tracking Services for Synovate’s Financial Services Group. “Card issuers are taking a more cautious approach, with lower income and high-risk households receiving fewer offers or no offers at all.”

HSBC, Bank of America and Citibank cut back card solicitations the most in the third quarter of 2008 versus the same period a year ago. HSBC led the group by far with a 70 percent drop, followed by Bank of America with a 44 percent decline and Citibank with a 40 percent decrease.

But household credit lines across all cards inched up to an average of $27,626 per household in the third quarter from $26,902 in 2007. Average balances and monthly new charges also continue to rise. For households that carry a card balance, the average balance is up to $7,539 per household in the third quarter, versus $7,008 during the same period in 2007.

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