Survey: Fewer Credit Card Offers Mailed for 2nd Consecutive Year

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Annual credit card mail volume for 2003 decreased 12 percent compared with volume in 2002, market researcher Synovate announced this week.

The findings, compiled using Synovate's Mail Monitor, a service of Synovate's financial services practice, showed that 4.29 billion credit card offers were received by U.S. households in 2003, down from 4.89 billion in 2002. Consumer response was 0.6 percent.

The drop follows a record 5.01 billion mailed offers in 2001.

Synovate, Arlington Heights, IL, said 69 percent of U.S. households received 4.8 offers on average monthly in 2003 versus 75 percent of households getting 5.1 offers in 2002.

"During 2003, typical seasonal mailing patterns went out of the window," said Andrew Davidson, vice president of competitive tracking services for Synovate's financial services practice.

Davidson said that 90 percent of credit card direct mail comes from the 10 largest card issuers, and half of those issuers cut back in 2003, causing the overall decline in mail volume. The company also noted that personal bankruptcies reached an all-time high in 2003, and despite recent improvements to the economy, unemployment remains high.

"Card issuers have reacted to this environment by mailing fewer low-introductory-rate offers and decreasing the frequency of mailings to lower-income households," Davidson said.

Meanwhile, he said, "we have seen a significant increase in offers promoting rewards and cash rebates as issuers seek new ways to stand out from the clutter and acquire customers that are less likely to switch."

According to Synovate, U.S. households got 1.27 billion reward offers in 2003, up from 810 million in 2002. Rebate card mail volume increased to 900 million from 680 million over the same period.

"Although volumes were down for the year, I was encouraged by our December 2003 findings," Davidson said. "Many issuers who had cut back overall in 2003 finished with a strong December, and I would not be surprised if the year begins with strong mailing volumes overall."

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