Banks ramp up

Banks have turned recent consumer lending laws into marketing highlights, according to new research from Mintel Comperemedia. Mintel's analysts say that lenders, after months of battling over elite customers with rewards credit card offers, have ramped up efforts to promote their "plain vanilla" cards with no annual fees and no bonus rewards.

In a statement to reporters, Mintel spokesman Andrew Davidson cited an uptick in the mailed offers for such no-frills credit cards as Chase Slate and Citi Simplicity Card. Each one of the cards turns an element of recent legislation into a selling point, using advertising and promotion to champion rule changes as customer service features.

New rules inspire customer-friendly policies

For instance, the Credit CARD Act set strict caps on penalty fees and finance charges. The Citi Simplicity Card eliminates certain fees. In addition to no annual fee ever, the Citi Simplicity Card is promoting no late fees ever and no penalty rates ever, check their online application for details and terms and conditions. Chase Slate includes the online Blueprint service that helps customers plan how they'll pay back large balances. Data from the tool helps Chase more accurately project how much cash it will have on hand to meet regulators' demands.

Fed support encourages longer balance transfer offers

Meanwhile, banks have extended the length of balance transfer offers linked to new "no-frills" credit card applications. Lenders can afford the move, Davidson said, because the Federal Reserve has signaled the continuation of low interest rates through 2014. Credit card issuers can afford to pass those savings along to valuable new customers, offering zero percent introductory APR deals ranging from 12 to 18 months.

More than two out of three mailed credit card offers during the fourth quarter of 2011 included balance transfer offers with teaser periods longer than 13 months, according to Mintel researchers. The company estimates that lenders mailed more than 5 billion credit card applications in 2011, up from the 3.6 billion sent in 2012.