U.S. Card Issuers: 3Q11 Spending and Lending Trends

An analysis of 3Q11 outstanding and volume data for leading U.S. credit card issuers reveals:

  • Signs of growth in outstandings. For the 11 issuers in the study
    • Four reported both year-on-year (y/y) and linked-quarter (q/q) growth in average credit card outstandings.
    • Five reported y/y declines, but q/q increases, indicating a recent transition to growth.
    • Two issuers had both y/y and q/q declines in outstandings.  One is Bank of America, whose high rates of decline are indicative of its particular challenges. The other is Capital One, but it is worth noting that its Domestic Card portfolio includes a run-off installment loan portfolio; excluding this portfolio, Capital One’s credit card outstandings are growing.


  • Continued strong volume growth (in this case, we just look at y/y growth for comparison purposes, due to the seasonal nature of spending):
    • Capital One has the strongest y/y growth, but this is part due to its acquisition of the Kohl’s private-label card portfolio.  Excluding this acquisition, Capital One still recorded double-digit volume growth.
    • American Express continues to report very strong volume growth in both consumer and small business spending (growth rate for the latter was 15%).

  • Volume growth rates continue to outstrip outstandings growth, and is indicative of a fundamental shift in the industry following the financial crisis, away from a lend-centric and towards a spend-centric model. This is seen in the persistently high APRs and relative scarcity of balance transfer introductory offers, but also in the very large bonus points/miles offers to drive both initial and ongoing card purchases.