Credit Card Response Rates Drop to 1 Percent in 1999

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Consumer response rates to mail credit card offers fell to 1 percent in 1999, according to a survey released last week. The rate was the lowest ever recorded by Mail Monitor, a service of BAIGlobal Inc., Tarrytown, NY, which began tracking mail volumes and response rates in 1990. The response rates have declined steadily since 1992, when the rate was 2.8 percent.

The volume of direct mail credit card offers also was lower in 1999 than it was in 1997 and 1998, with 2.87 billion pieces mailed, compared with 3.01 billion in 1997 and 3.45 billion in 1998.

BAI attributed the decline in response rates to the lack of differentiation among credit card offers and rates, among other factors. The decline in mail volumes was partly attributable to budget cutbacks at large issuers and to mergers, which reduced the total number of mailers. The 10 largest credit card issuers accounted for 88 percent of the total mailings, compared with 79 percent in 1998.

The Mail Monitor survey, which polls 10,000 households nationwide, found that offers for platinum cards accounted for 70 percent of the offers mailed last year, up from 67 percent in 1998. The 1999 response rate for platinum cards was 0.8 percent, compared with a response rate of 1.3 percent for standard cards, which accounted for 27 percent of total mail solicitations, up from 25 percent in 1998. BAIGlobal attributed the high response rates for standard cards to the focused targeting of high-risk consumers by issuers.

- Mark Hamstra
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