Credit card accounts up 35 percent since last year, says Equifax

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Credit card deals have helped banks bounce back with a 35-percent bump in new accounts compared to last year, according to a new report from Equifax. Researchers at the national consumer credit bureau released the July edition of their monthly Credit Trend Report, drawing on data compiled from the credit profiles of nearly 600 million consumers. Their numbers suggest that, despite headline-hogging worries about a double-dip recession clouding the housing market, consumer lending has enjoyed a strong comeback over the past two years.

According to Equifax, fewer Americans fell into the "high risk" category in May 2011 than in May 2010. The average Equifax Risk Score climbed to 695 during the survey period, echoing Americans' improved ability to pay bills on time and to stay within their credit limits. Consumers got extra help on that front with a wave of balance transfer offers featuring higher lines of credit. Spending habit changes picked up during the recession seemed to have stuck, since borrowers have paid down over a trillion dollars in consumer debt since the end of 2008.

Credit card issuers have extended $167 billion to American borrowers, according to Equifax's March 2011 snapshot of consumer lending. The figure marks a 15-percent increase in credit limits since the start of the recession. Auto lending and home equity lines of credit typically trail credit card lending, according to Equifax spokesperson Michael Koukounas. In a statement to reporters, Koukounas remarked that many of the company's key consumer metrics have stabilized in spite of popular opinion about an economic relapse.

As one of the three largest consumer credit bureaus in the United States, Equifax gathers data on more than 4.4 billion personal and business accounts every month. The company's report noted that credit card issuers continue to deleverage as they attempt to meet new government liquidity guidelines, while Equifax data confirms that banks have moved aggressively to lure less risky borrowers to their portfolios.

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