ABA Report: Credit Card Access Up in Fourth Quarter

New credit card accounts rose 16.3 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2015 to total 80.3 million, according to the latest edition of ABA’s Credit Card Market Monitor released today. The total number of credit card accounts also continued to rise steadily, hitting a post-recession high of 323 million — a 5.8 percent increase from the previous year. Healthy consumer spending and continued labor strength were key contributing factors to the increase.

“Recent growth in the credit card market largely mirrors what we’re seeing in the economy’s consumer sector,” said ABA SVP Jess Sharp. “Labor markets continue to perform well, wages are slowly climbing and gasoline prices remain low — all of which translates into a healthier outlook for both consumers and the credit card market.”

While credit card access is expanding, Sharp noted that on the whole, consumers are consumers continue to effectively manage their credit and spend within their means. Credit card debt increased to 5.38 percent, but remained in line with historic lows. The share of account holders carrying over a monthly balance increased 0.4 points to 42.1 percent of all account holders.

The report also showed that credit card issuers continue to effectively manage risk while expanding credit access. Average credit lines saw growth overall, particularly for new prime accounts and super-prime accounts, which rose 1.6 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. Subprime growth was slower, at 0.4 percent.