The credit card market gained strength in last year’s third quarter, with more new accounts and higher monthly purchase volumes across all risk categories, according to the American Bankers Association’s latest Credit Card Market Monitor. 

These improvements come as the broader economy grew 5% in the third quarter of 2014 and 4.6% in the second quarter - the strongest six-month period of economic growth in more than a decade. The monitor for March, reflecting data from the third quarter, found that monthly purchase volumes increased across all risk categories, including a 5.2% uptick for subprime accounts, a 2.6% increase for prime accounts and 1.2% growth for super-prime accounts.  This rebound is consistent with the broader consumer picture at that time, with personal consumption expenditures growing 3.2%(nearly three times faster than in the first quarter of 2014) and retail sales continuing to improve. Also, both the number of new accounts and the average line of credit extended to those accounts increased across all risk groups."These findings reaffirm the important relationship between credit markets and the broader U.S. economy," said Molly Wilkinson, executive director of ABA’s Card Policy Council. "The market trends we're seeing go hand in hand with a healthy economy as consumers continue to do a good job of managing their credit even as access to credit increases."Among new accounts opened within the last 24 months, average credit lines increased across the board.  This is particularly true for new prime accounts, which grew 2.3% - the fastest rate in more than six years.  Similarly, average credit lines for all accounts increased for both prime and super-prime accounts, the first time both have increased simultaneously in four years. While average credit lines for all subprime accounts fell by 0.6% in the third quarter, average credit lines increased for subprime accounts opened in the last 24 months - the fourth such increase in the last five quarters."Both banks and consumers are feeling better about the state of the economy, and many lenders are gaining confidence in consumers’ ability to meet their financial obligations,” Wilkinson said. New account volumes have steadily expanded across all risk categories over the last four years, including a 12.8% year-over-year expansion in the third quarter of 2014, and are now at their highest levels since the recession ended. This growth has been fueled primarily by prime and super-prime accounts over the past five years, but growth in new subprime accounts is up 21% compared to the same period a year ago."Access to credit is important for both consumers and the broader economy," said Wilkinson. "These findings provide strong evidence that the market is growing in a healthy and sustainable way.”The full report, including charts and detailed statistics, is available here. The American Bankers Association Credit Card Market Monitor is a quarterly report that provides key statistics on industry trends and relevant economic factors affecting the industry.    

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.