Profits from credit card lending declined in 1996 for the third straight year, but the sector still outperformed other bank business lines, according to the Federal Reserve Board.

Returns averaged 2.14% of outstanding balances last year, down from 2.71% in 1995, 3.98% in 1994, and 4.06% in 1993, the Fed said in its annual report to Congress on credit card profits. The average return on assets for banks is 1.86%.

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