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FICO survey shows banks ready to increase credit card limits in 2013

By , CardRatings contributor
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More than half of American bankers expect consumers to request credit line increases during 2013, according to the results of a recent survey commissioned by FICO. The credit scoring company asked a panel of 251 bank risk managers to predict household credit trends over the next six months, and the results bode well for both consumers and credit card issuers.

In the survey, 71 percent of respondents said they expected banks to keep pace with demand for higher credit card limits over the next few months. Only car loans performed higher on the survey, with 74 percent of the panel suggesting that auto lenders were prepared to help more consumers finance new vehicles over the coming months.

In a statement to reporters, FICO spokesman Dr. Andrew Jennings said the results could mean that Americans are finally prepared to "embrace credit again, after the considerable deleveraging we've seen since 2008." Jennings cited the improving job market and a revived real estate sector as drivers for a rebounding credit market. The results represent the most optimistic perspective since FICO began commissioning the quarterly survey nearly three years ago.

However, the bankers in FICO's survey remained conservative when describing their own preferences for how consumers should manage their money in 2013. More than two-thirds of the risk managers surveyed told researchers that Americans should continue to preserve cash and pay off their debts over the next year. Just 12 percent of the survey respondents advised consumers to maximize available credit during 2013.

More than half the survey respondents said they expect credit card balances to rise this year, prompting their predictions for higher credit limits. After five years of relative austerity, Jennings said, Americans may feel comfortable enough about the economy to start funding lifestyle purchases on credit. The FICO survey results arrive at the same time that many major banks have launched new balance transfer offers to lure business away from competitors.

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