Americans are feeling more positive about the use of credit cards, and credit card issuers are responding with increased direct-mail efforts aimed at younger and more fiscally responsible consumers, new data show.
During last year’s fourth quarter, the percentage of direct mail card offers with no annual fee or rewards rose to 30% from 13% during the same period in 2010, according to Mintel Comperemedia. The Chicago-based consumer research group announced its findings Feb. 27.
The Federal Reserve’s commitment to low rates until 2014 is encouraging longer durations for 0% teaser rates, and this is fueling increased competition for no-fee, no-rewards cards, Mintel says. Among offers with low introductory annual percentage rates for balance transfers, 72% promoted an introductory period of 13 months or more compared with 58% that did a year earlier, according to Mintel.
One issuer confirms Mintel’s findings. At JPMorgan Chase & Co., the issuer’s card marketing tries to meet the demand for fiscally conservative credit sources, Tom O’Donnell, Chase senior vice president of card services, tells PaymentsSource. He says consumers are beginning to more frequently include credit as an option for spending and financing.
“While it is valid to say that we’ve increased the marketing associated with (our no-fee, no-rewards card) Slate, we’ve been able to increase the marketing overall for all of our card products,” O’Donnell says.
Issuers are increasing their offers of cards with no rewards or annual fees because consumers are feeling more positive about the economy. Moreover, the market has seen a shift in demographics to wage-earners and a lifestyle in greater need of credit, Ron Shevlin, senior analyst for Boston-based Aite Group, tells PaymentsSource.
As credit sources pulled back when the recession started in 2008, Shevlin says, issuers focused their marketing on affluent consumers who preferred rewards programs. At the time, younger consumers were not good credit risks. But now they have become more concerned with family needs, and they are earning more and improving their credit scores, Shevlin says.
“It was a just a matter of time,” he says. “Business has been real tough from the issuer perspective, and now they’re seeing the debt levels increase and more interest in the cards. Despite all the claims that direct mail is dead, it’s still a great way to reach a lot of consumers. Even if the response rates are relatively low, the return on the investment is still there.”
Frequently mailed offers for no annual fee, no-rewards cards include the Citigroup Inc.’s Simplicity card, Chase’s Slate card with Blueprint feature and Capital One’s Platinum MasterCard, according to Comperemedia.
Citigroup’s message is one of clarity and no late fees, while Chase’s Blueprint feature helps customers manage their spending and borrowing, Andrew Davidson, Mintel senior vice president, said in a press release. Cap One is targeting consumers looking to re-establish their credit and will provide access to a higher credit line once a cardholder makes five on-time payments, he said.
“Unlike plain vanilla offers mailed prerecession, today's plain vanilla offers typically boast additional post-CARD Act features so they are not just competing on rate,” Davidson noted.
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