Though direct-mail volume for credit card offers decreased in the United States in 2008, Canada's volume increased, according to data from Chicago-based Mintel Comperemedia. In Canada, credit card mail volume increased 3.3%, to 340 million from 329 million in 2007. Meanwhile, in the U.S., issuers mailed 5.4 billion card offers, down 26% from 7.3 billion in 2007. Stephen Clifford, Mintel vice president of financial services, says Canada has had a delayed reaction to the global economic crisis, mainly because, compared with the U.S., it did not have a mortgage meltdown that affected how issuers offer credit. However, unemployment is starting to rise and banks are failing, just two economic factors among others that eventually will reduce card offers from Canadian issuers, he says. "The decline in Canada has been more recent, so it might take longer than the U.S. to see where that bottom is going to be," says Clifford, who expects the U.S. credit card direct-mail market to even out throughout 2009 as economic conditions improve. "The U.S. will level out this year before we see any increase as issuers adjust to their higher losses and new card regulation," he says. So far this year, the U.S. market has shown a smaller decrease in mail volume, says Clifford. In February, U.S. card solicitations reached 149 million direct mailings, an historic low but only 11% less than in January. "It may be that the U.S. market is hitting bottom," Clifford says.

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