Credit cards saw a record setting reduction in balances during the pandemic, with total outstanding credit card debt dropping over 10% from Q4 2019 to Q4 2020. This trend is counter intuitive to what you may have expected during an economic recession where unemployment hit all-time highs. But this recession is different, disproportionally affecting lower wage earners. Consumers who were lucky enough to remain employed had more cash in their pocket due to less discretionary spending and government stimulus and used that extra money to pay down credit card balances. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic it is likely that credit card balances will increase. Here are three reasons why.
As more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, their confidence to resume pre-COVID activities will grow, increasing discretionary spending. Increased vaccinations along with lower COVID-19 case counts allow for more states to remove COVID-19 restrictions and fully open back up. Economists are predicting a boom to the economy as we come out of the recession. Consumers are ready to spend their money, travel to see family, take that vacation and more. This pent up demand may create a time of economic growth, and credit card balances are expected to grow.
With increased consumer spending, the economy will likely continue its recovery. Aiding in the economic recovery is the stimulus bill, the 6th COVID relief package passed, which provides Americans, if eligible, stimulus checks of $1,400. The bill contains additional relief efforts to buoy the economy. With an improving economy, businesses can begin to hire again. Unemployment rates are improving and should continue to fall as we begin our “return to normal”. With more consumers in the work force and an economy rebounding, credit card balances will likely rise.
Easing of Underwriting Criteria
With improving unemployment, increased consumer confidence, and a stronger economy, financial institutions are giving more credit. During the pandemic, most financial institutions enacted tighter underwriting principles and for good reason. Much was not known as to the breadth of the economic impact the pandemic would cause. Financial institutions responded quickly, providing assistance in the form of loan payment deferrals. Financial institutions also increased reserves to mitigate future losses due to the economic fallout of COVID-19. In reality, delinquencies and charge offs did not go up as much as expected relative to the increase in unemployment. While we are not out of the clear yet, financial institutions are loosening underwriting criteria to serve more borrowers. As more borrowers have access to credit, credit card balances will increase.
Facilitating Credit Card Growth
With the market poised for increased spending, you want to position your credit union and credit card products to maximize growth.
“Now is not the time to be closing accounts for a short period of inactivity. Now is the time to focus on how you can provide a card product that meets the needs of your member so that when they reach for their wallet to start spending, your card is the one they choose,”
John Wagner, Analytics Manager at 2020 Analytics.
Take advantage of the increase in consumer spending by providing your members a proactive credit line increase. Using advanced data and predictive modeling, 2020 Analytics helps financial institutions evaluate their current cardholders and identify the members most likely to increase card usage if their credit limits were increased. All that is left is to notify your cardholders of the good news. Contact 2020 to learn more about our Proactive Credit Line Increase Program today.