As the economy worsened in 2008, credit card issuers sent less direct mail to consumers, according to Synovate's Mail Monitor direct-mail tracking service. Issuers sent U.S. households 3.8 billion new card offers last year, down 27% from 5.2 billion in 2007, Andrew Davidson, vice president of competitive tracking services for New York-based Synovate's Financial Services group, tells CardLine. Mail volume hit levels not seen since 2000, as the credit crunch prompted issuers to reduce mailings to low-income and high-risk consumers, he says. Banks are focusing more on prime and super-prime consumers for direct-mail offers, Davidson says. "We're going to see this trickle mail until December," Davidson says, noting mail volume should pick up at the end of the year as the economy improves. "Those banks that received TALF funds are going to have to start demonstrating that they are lending again, and direct mail card offers are a key indicator of that." Issuers that cut back the most on mail solicitations last year were HSBC Finance Corp., down 61%; Citibank, down 44%; JPMorgan Chase, down 31%; and Bank of America Corp., down 30%, according to Synovate.

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