I warned in “Banks declare war–on you” that getting credit cards has gotten tougher, that low-rate balance transfer offers are getting harder to find and that issuers are imposing more fees.
Recent statistics from Mail Monitor, a direct mail tracking service, comfirm those trends. Issuers are sending out far fewer solicitations and they’re increasingly for cards that carry an annual fee. For example:
- In the first quarter of 2009, U.S. households received 372.4 million offers, a dramatic 67 percent drop from the 1,131.6 million offers received during the first quarter of 2008.
- Twenty-seven percent of offers carried an annual fee during the first quarter of 2009, up from 18 percent from one year ago, Mail Monitor said.
Why the decline in overall offers but the jump in cards with annual fees? Issuers are reacting to the new law that gives consumers more rights and protections against credit-card companies. These rules kick in next year. (CLICK HERE to learn more about the new law.)
“The new credit card regulations will substantially reduce the revenue for issuers. Increasing the number of cards with annual fees is certainly one way to make up for this shortfall,” says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com and author of The Credit Card Guidebook.
- Pay attention to the offers received to see if the card has an annual fee
- Check your current credit cards to see if your issuer has added an annual fee
- If you already are paying an annual fee, check to see if that has increased (Mail Monitor says the mean bankcard annual fee is $74)
- Keep an eye on your interest rates. Hardekopf expects those rates to rise between now and next February, when the new credit-card law goes into effect
Remember — you don’t have to carry a card that charges an annual fee. Shop around and look for the best deals. Need some fodder for your search? Check out my take on the best and worst cards and what you need to look for when you sign for a new card: