Credit card companies get their groove back

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Back in August, I wondered if the credit card companies might be getting their groove back because it seemed like after a precipitous fall-off, the number of solicitations they send to our mailboxes was beginning to level off. Well, I was wrong, and credit card mail volume, as tracked by the research firm Synovate, resumed its slide. Until now. Here is the graph of the latest data. Mail volume is in millions. (Click on the chart to make it larger.)

Good news for credit-starved America? Perhaps—especially for all those small-business owners who rely on credit cards for company financing. Although if over-indebted American families are part of the return to what’s “normal,” then maybe we’d be better off a little more on the dysfunctional side.

One piece of what’s going, the folks at Synovate say, is that credit carding is again a predictable business now that the CARD Act is all hashed out and the industry knows what it’s up against regulation-wise.

An interesting point to note in the chart is that response rates to credit-card offers are at historically typical levels. My impulse is to ask, Did people not learn anything? But then I remember that even the same response rate on a smaller base of offers will mean fewer new credit card accounts. In fact, my colleague Brad Tuttle recently highlighted that, at least as of last fall, new credit card accounts were off on a year-over-year basis by 46%.