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Americans receive 2.25 billion credit card offers in 2010

A man shows off some of his credit cards.

TEXT OF STORY

STACEY VANEK SMITH: We spend a lot of time on this show talking about economic indicators. Things like jobless claims and housing starts. This year, there's one indicator you've probably been seeing in your mailbox and on your TV.

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No question about it, plastic is back. And a new study shows Americans got a lot more credit card offers this year than last year.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh is here live in our LA studio to talk cards. Good morning Eve.

EVE TROEH: Good morning.

VANEK SMITH: Eve, tell us -- who are the credit card companies courting? And why?

TROEH: Well, a company called Synovate measures this every year. And it says Americans got 2.25 billion credit card offers -- that's 62 percent more than last year.

VANEK SMITH: Wow.

TROEH: A lot. A lot more people than are even in the United States by the way. A lot of these envelopes are going to people with credit scores under 700, so people with good credit, but not great credit. In the past two years those consumers not only didn't any get credit card offers, but they had their credit limits slashed and their interest rates hiked on their existing cards. Now credit card companies are taking a chance on them, sending them exponentially more offers, but the total is still nowhere near the peak of 6 billion offers in 2005.

VANEK SMITH: Some people say more credit card offers is a sign of economic recovery and credit getting more accessible in this country. But is it good for consumers to accept these offers?

TROEH: It's important to say that what credit companies are offering is different than before the financial crisis. Almost all the new credit cards have a variable interest rate -- not a fixed one -- so the APR can go up anytime. And we're baseline double digit interest rates here, too. Many new cards also have annual fees. So, sure, credit companies look like their easing up, giving higher risk people a shot, but they're charging them a lot for the privilege of new credit.

VANEK SMITH: Our own Eve Troeh. Thanks Eve, and happy holidays!

TROEH: Thank you.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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