The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) requires the CFPB to prepare a biennial report to Congress regarding the consumer credit card market. On August 27th, the CFPB issued its fourth such report (previous reports were issued in 2013, 2015 and 2017) which describes the CFPB’s findings regarding, among other things, the cost and availability of credit, credit card performance trends and innovations in the credit card marketplace. As you might expect, the CFPB compiles a huge amount of credit card data from several sources including federal agencies and credit card issuers.  For those interested in the credit card market, the report contains a wealth of statistics and data points.

Some of the core findings from the report include:

  • “Total outstanding credit card balances have continued to grow and at year-end 2018 were nominally above pre-recession levels. Throughout the post-recession period, including the period since the Bureau’s 2017 Report, purchase volume has grown faster than outstanding balances. After falling to historical lows in the years following the recession, delinquency and charge-off rates have increased over the last two years. Late payment rates have increased for new originations of general purpose and private label cards, both overall and within different credit tiers.”
  • “The total cost of credit (TCC) on revolving accounts has increased over the last two years and in 2018 stood at 18.7 percent, which is the highest overall level observed in the Bureau’s biennial reports. Recent TCC increases are largely the result of increases in the indices underlying variable rates, such as the prime rate. General purpose cards, which generally have interest rates linked to the prime rate, have driven the increase across every credit tier. TCC has fallen over the last two years for private label cards, in part because relatively fewer of these cards have rates linked directly to index rates, offset by a decline in fees as a share of balances.”
  • “Most measures of credit card availability—overall and across credit score tiers—have remained stable or decreased slightly since the Bureau’s 2017 Report. Measured by application volume, consumer demand for credit cards peaked in 2016. Approval rates have also declined slightly since 2016. Driven by lower approval rates, annual growth in the number of credit card accounts opened and the amount of credit line on new accounts has also leveled off. Even so, total credit line across all consumer credit cards reached $4.3 trillion in 2018, nearly equal to its pre-recession high, largely due to the growth in unused line on accounts held by consumers with superprime scores.”

We expect market participants to use the data provided by the CFPB in the report as a benchmark for evaluating performance and regulatory trends for credit card programs.