Nilson Report

Issue 1168 | Jan 2020


Companies featured in this issue include:

U.S. General Purpose Cards, Outstandings as a Percentage of Purchase Volume

American Express Card Results 2019

Discover Card U.S. Results 2019

Income at Top U.S. Credit Card Issuers: Company Net vs. Card Net

Investments in Merchant Acquiring & Processing—2019

American Express Card Results 2019

Results for American Express for calendar year 2019 are shown on the table on page 6. Figures include business generated by cards issued inside and outside the United States.

1. Cards
Global Total 114.4 (million), +0.4%
2. Accounts
Global Total 93.0 (million), +0.4%
3. Transactions
Global Total 8.90 (billion), +6.4%
4. Volume
Global Total $1,240.80 (billion), +6.3%
5. Outstandings
Global Total $172.57 (billion), +3.4%

Full access to the American Express Card Results 2019 is available when you subscribe to The Nilson Report.



U.S. Credit Card Outstandings vs. Purchase Volume

Please note: Only subscribers can access the charts included with this article.

Outstanding credit card receivables tied to consumer and commercial products issued in the U.S. for use on the Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover networks grew 4.6% to $1.018 trillion at the end of 2019. The last year the U.S. industry saw double-digit growth in credit card outstandings was 2000. In 3 of the intervening 19 years, outstandings declined. 

Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover credit card debt as a percentage of credit card purchase volume on cards carrying those brands, fell to an all-time low of 25.6% at the end of 2019. Over the last 10 years, debt on general purpose cards has grown 31.8%, while purchase volume has grown 125.7%. 

Multiple factors have contributed to those different growth rates. Issuers offered rewards, which increased credit card spending. Cash and debit card spending moved to credit cards. 

However, several influences negatively impacted the growth of credit card outstandings. 

Millennials—consumers born between 1980 and 1994—became the largest demographic group in the U.S. in 2019. They do not use credit cards as their baby-boomer parents did when at the same age. Millennials carry lower balances. Most importantly, a significantly smaller percentage of that cohort can qualify for a credit card. 

Student debt pushed a large segment of millennials into the nonprime (credit scores below 660) credit category. Outstanding student loan debt exceeds $1.521 trillion.

More than 75 million adult Americans have at least one credit account in collections. A growing number of cardholders who carry credit card balances pay off their debt with personal loans from alternative lenders. 

The future holds some promise of better times for revolving credit. Generation Z—people born after 1994 and the first fully digital native generation—have better credit scores than millennials.

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