The end of 2010 was a transitional time for credit card lenders. Card issuers were faced with the need to jump-start “return to growth strategies” as a result of diminished profits stemming from the great recession and all of the credit tightening actions deployed over the last two years. Lenders were deliberate in their actions to shrink balance sheets eliminating higher risk customers. At the same time, risk adverse consumers were, and continue to be, more thoughtful about spending, taking deliberate measures to buy what they perceive to be necessary and able to pay back. Being the only safe bet in town, the super prime universe went from saturated to abundantly over-saturated, and only recently have lenders begun to turn the ship in anticipation of continued relief in default trends.
As a result of sustained relief in credit card defaults and over-saturation in the prime+ space, more lenders have begun loosening policies. This has created price competition with 74% of new offers including low introductory rates for longer durations, averaging 12 months, up from 9 months just one year ago. The percent of annual fee offers decreased as well to 21% from 34% one year prior.
Continuing the trend of competing for the prime+ segment, lenders have increasingly been promoting loyalty programs, in many cases, combined with spend-incented rebates. In fact, over a third of new offers were for rewards based products, up from 26% prior to the start of the economic turn in 2007.
Lenders are now shifting gears to compete in new ways focusing on consumer demand for payment choices. Regardless of a consumer’s credit profile, lenders and technology providers are investing in innovative payment solutions. Lenders understand that if the Starbucks “My Coffee Card” is only available on their customer’s iPhone, Blackberry or Android using a re-loadable Starbucks app, then traditional card issuers will lose purchase volume.
What is becoming more and more critical is a lenders ability to leverage new data sources in their targeting strategies. It is no longer enough to know what products provide the most relevance to consumer needs. A lender must now know the optimal communication channel for unique segments of the population, their payment preferences and the product terms and features that competitively match the consumer’s needs and risk profile. Lenders are leveraging new data sources around income, wealth, rent payment, ARM reset timing and strategic default, wallet spend and purchase timing.