Seems the public is getting the word that easy credit is on the decline—or that perhaps it’s not a good time to be racking up debt. In a fall survey by online measurement firm comScore, the total number of Web-based credit card applications declined by six percent at the top-10 issuer sites since last year.

The decline is spurred by a 19-percent drop in prime-credit applicants, offsetting a seven-percent increase in applications from those on the subprime end of the FICO scale (scores below 660). "With historically-low consumer confidence, a tight credit market and looming uncertainty in the marketplace, it's likely many consumers are doing all they can to avoid having to take out additional lines of credit,” says comScore’s Jennifer Lanouette.

The survey tapped the opinions of more than 2,000 Web users, and was supplemented by online behavioral data. “Regardless of these shifts in consumer behavior,” adds Lanouette, “it's important for credit card issuers to realize they can still compete for new customers by appealing to those looking for better rates, card rewards and service options.”

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