Bye-bye, contracted credit. Hello, plastic proliferation.
At least that's the take-away from Equifax's new credit trends report, which shows banks handed out 1.8 million, or 26 percent, more credit cards this year through the end of March versus the same period in 2010.
And in a sign of renewed confidence in riskier borrowers, 2.5 million of those cards went to subprime consumers, formerly the pariah of the Great Recession. That's a whopping 62 percent increase from the same period a year before.
In total, credit card issuers gave out $33.4 billion in new credit through the end of March, compared with $26.6 billion in 2010.
That's part of a larger credit trend. New credit among auto loans, bank cards, consumer finance loans, home equity lines, retail cards and student loans rose to $167 billion from $145 billion a year ago.
New home equity credit rose year-to-date (through March) for the first time in five years, while new auto loans grew 21 percent. Consumer finance, which is unsecured personal installment or revolving loans, posted a smaller increase of 1.5 percent in expanded credit limits.
Retail cards and student loans continue to lag.
So why are most gatekeepers of credit rewarding consumers?
Answer: our better financial behavior.
Equifax's risk scores, which predict the likelihood that a consumer will become seriously delinquent within two years, are getting higher. (Higher is better, as in bowling). On top of that, the percent of high-risk scores is shrinking.
Consumers continue to make payments on time, control spending and dig out of the debt ditch. (Equifax noted that consumer debt has fallen 8.7 percent to $11.3 trillion from $12.4 trillion in October 2008.) Keep up the good work.
Have you received a credit card offer recently? Did you accept it?
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