This month, it’s all about parties and gift giving and holiday traditions. Fast forward a month, however, and consumers will be in a different place.
Today, they are spending. In a few weeks, the focus will be on paying down bills, or perhaps seeking solutions to consolidate or transfer balances.
The good news for the economy is consumers are expected to spend more this holiday season – $830 on average, a huge jump from last year’s $720. Total retail is expected to increase 5.6 percent, while ecommerce (thanks Amazon Prime) should rise 13.9 percent.
So what does this mean for lenders?
Card utilization is peaking, creating the perfect scenario for many consumers to seek balance transfers, consolidate debt and search for competitive rates, especially if they’ve been leveraging high-interest cards.
A recent analysis by NerdWallet revealed consumers are more interested in shopping with store credit cards than with traditional cards this season, putting them at particular risk of sky-high rates. A deeper look at utilization revealed super-prime consumers use less than 6 percent of their available credit limits, while consumers in the deep-subprime tier use nearly every dollar allotted.
“Consumers spend billions during the holidays on high-interest credit cards,” said Kyle Matthies, Experian product manager. “Many of them have excellent credit, but struggle juggling multiple payments, which can lead to delinquencies. Credit card consolidation can provide relief by lowering interest rates and simplifying repayment.”
Card issuers that remain passive during this window may find their portfolios at-risk as customers take advantage of seasonal offers.
Competitors who capitalize on this peak season of balance transfers will likely be mailing out offers to acquire and grow their card portfolio, as well as protect their current card base.
“As banks and credit unions finish out the calendar year, they might seek one last marketing push, so a balance-transfer campaign might be the ideal play,” said Matthies. “Still, to avoid blowing the budget, it helps to leverage data to know exactly who to target – both within and outside the card portfolio.”
Specific models and/or tools can identify who to try to retain, as well as provide insights on whom to conquest from the outside. An index can additionally offer guidance on when to lower APRs, sweeten rewards and increase credit limits for specific consumers.
The post-holiday balance-transfer wave is coming. The question is which lenders will be best prepared to protect and grow their respective card portfolios.