Study Finds 17% Drop in Credit Card Mailings

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Consumers received 750 million fewer credit card offers in 2003, a 17 percent decline from 2002, according to data released yesterday from Mintel International Group's Comperemedia, a Chicago-based media monitoring system.

"Historically, October and November are two of the biggest mail months for credit card issuers as consumers gear up for the holiday shopping season," said Susan Wolfe, vice president of research for Comperemedia. "We didn't see those historical highs this year, mainly because some of the top mailers scaled back their volumes."

Card issuers continue to offer introductory rates of 0 percent on almost half of all offers mailed, Comperemedia said. The time for which the introductory rate is applicable decreased versus that of previous months and is more likely to be for six to seven months, down from 12-plus months earlier in the year.

Balance-transfer offers remain prevalent as well, Comperemedia said, and some offers have rates that are applicable until the customer pays off the entire transferred balance. Interest rates on these balance transfers are higher, with the majority between 2.99 and 3.99 percent.

Late fees climbed in the past few months, with 64 percent of offers tracked in November specifying a late fee of $35 and 17 percent listing a late fee of $39. The $39 late fee first appeared in August, and increased in popularity each month since.

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