Credit unions sold 22 credit card portfolios last year, and while the number of sales was the same as in 2008, the sale values more than tripled, TRK Advisors said.

The Peterborough, N.H., card portfolio consulting firm said the card portfolios that credit unions sold last year fetched $328 million, compared with $100 million in 2008. TRK Advisors measured only credit union card portfolios with at least $1 million in accounts receivable.

Sales still remain below the pace of 2004 through 2007, when 60 to 70 credit unions sold portfolios each year, said Timothy R. Kolk, TRK Advisors' president. Large issuers of bank cards also had lower portfolio sales last year.

The economic downturn is dampening the pace of deals, Kolk said, because most card portfolios on the block carry a relatively high risk of chargeoffs and defaults.

Potential buyers also remain uncertain about the long-term effects of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which went into effect last month.

Consumers' growing preference for using debit cards for everyday purchases is also helping to slow credit card portfolio sales, Kolk said.

"Generally, the industry continues to see migration from credit card purchases to debit card instead. This also pushed credit card spending [and revenues] down."

In the past, "all big banks used to be optimistic about portfolios and offered wild prices," Kolk said. That changed over the past two years, when supply outstripped demand.

Since 2001, about 400 credit unions have sold card portfolios whose total value exceeds $300 billion, TRK Advisors said. It announced the findings this week.

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