Renaissance Holdings Inc., the subprime credit card lender, has joined the growing ranks of card companies buying charged-off credit card debt.

Two larger card issuers, Providian Financial Corp. and Capital One Financial Corp., have recently stated interest in purchasing delinquent card receivables from other banks. Several smaller companies, some of which do not issue credit cards, also compete in this market.

Irving J. Levin, the chief executive officer of Beaverton, Ore.-based Renaissance, said that in the last year his company has bought $50 million of card debt-all of it 180 days or more overdue.

Since the competition to buy bad debt is growing, Mr. Levin said, it was advantageous for Renaissance to announce its strategy.

Renaissance is targeting private-label portfolios from retailers and oil companies, installment loan debt, and MasterCard and Visa card debt. The subprime specialist is only interested in accounts with balances under $1,500.

Renaissance is well equipped to handle these types of accounts because of its expertise in secured credit cards, Mr. Levin said. Renaissance has been honing its collection skills on its own nonperforming accounts, he said. "We have been gearing up for this for five years."

Through its subsidiary, Orchard Bank of Portland, Ore., Renaissance issues credit cards-most of them secured by bank deposits-and, as an agent bank, manages the receivables of other financial institutions. In total, Renaissance manages one million card accounts.

Renaissance does not have forward flow contracts-agreements with banks to buy charged-off debt on a regular basis-but is negotiating to sign them with several institutions.

The market for charged-off credit card debt was largely created by Commercial Financial Services Inc. of Tulsa, Okla., which dominated the market for years. In December, after its principals were accused of financial misconduct, that company filed for bankruptcy, opening up the bad debt market for other companies.

Since then, the landscape has been shifting, Mr. Levin said. "There is no dominant player doing dominant things yet, so it is fertile ground for smaller specialists like us to get in."

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