Consumers Confident Enough to Say 'Charge It'

If you're looking for a sure sign of the economy's rebound, we may have found one.

Credit Cards
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Credit Cards

Online data tracker ComScore just released the results of a surveythat shows a close correlation between consumer confidence in the economy and a desire to shop for a new credit card.

During the past twelve months, 20 percent of all cardholders polled in the survey said they had shopped for a new credit card. However, if you looked only at respondents who expressed more confident about the economy, the percentage shoots up to 34 percent.

"As we see consumer economic sentiment improve, we're also seeing a corresponding increase in retail and e-commerce spending along with increased card shopping, especially among those in the subprime sector," said Sarah Lenart, ComScore vice president of financial services.

Lenart expects credit card shopping will continue to increase in 2011.

Those in the subprime category, which are defined as higher-risk cardholders, were largely shut out from obtaining credit in the wake of the financial crisis, which may explain why they are among those most actively looking for new credit cards.

Also, consumers who carry a balance from month to month on their primary credit card are also nearly twice as likely to have looked for a new credit card during the past year.

ComScore's research also shows most consumers put the greater value on picking a card with a low interest rate over other credit card features. About 40 percent of those surveyed said a low APR/interest rate was the most important feature. Having no annual fee was picked by 28 percent, while 13 percent said rewards or points mattered the most.

The most important credit card reward offering was the ability to get cash back from using the card. That feature was chosen by 57 percent of those polled.

It will be interesting to see what consumers do with these new credit cards. During the recession, consumers shied away from their credit cards and turned to debit cards and cashas they worked to reduce their household debt levels. Also, the credit crisis made it very difficult for consumers with lower credit scores to obtain new credit.

In the survey, consumers who were less optimistic remained wary of credit card usage, and in many cases were turning to alternative payment methods.

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