Credit cards
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Kai Ryssdal: Credit card companies reported their August default rates today. They were a bit sour. Capital One and Discover saw around 9 percent of their balances go bad. Bank of America topped 14 percent. It all adds up to billions of dollars in losses.

Add that to the new consumer protection laws that passed earlier this summer and plastic is in a tight spot. So card companies are trying a new interesting tactic. As Marketplace's Stacey Vanek-Smith reports.

STACEY VANEK-SMITH: You could call it a kinder gentler, generation of credit cards. Today JPMorgan Chase unveiled the Blueprint card, which doesn't charge interest for day-to-day purchases like groceries.

American Express' new ad campaign stresses the protections its cards offer.

AMERICAN EXPRESS AD: If something you recently bought with the card breaks, it can be repaired, replaced, or your account can be credited.

And Discover has a card that rewards you for paying your balance on time. That's a whole lot of virtue from an industry that made a whole lot of money on vice.

RON SHEVLIN: Credit card issuers are certainly responding to the PR issues that they're facing.

Ron Shevlin is a banking products expert at Aite Group.

SHEVLIN: It's also a bit of a play from an issuer perspective to acquire new customers and keep the ones they've got, better long-term customers.

The pay-on-time customers they used to ignore. Robert Manning is author of "Credit Card Nation." He says cash-strapped consumers who used to pay a fortune in interest are defaulting and now card companies have to coddle higher-end clients.

ROBERT MANNING: They're hoping to basically consolidate that loyalty so when the economy improves, they'll be the first customers they'll start offering new loans and new lines of credit to.

And because plastic is no longer so profitable, card companies are expanding into new businesses. Capital One has been buying up banks to become a full service financial firm. American Express just rolled out a new line of personal savings accounts.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

Follow Stacey Vanek Smith at @svaneksmith