Boston, MA
August 2005


The Present and Future of the Card Issuing Lifeblood 

Much has been written about the maturing of the general-purpose credit card industry in the United States.  Receivables growth has slowed to low and mid single digits, the number of accounts is virtually unchanged over the last several years, and the business will soon be consolidated heavily amongst the top six issuers (pending any more future deals that could cut that number further).  Transaction volumes is still growing at a healthy clip, but even its double digit growth potential is a far cry from its momentum of the last decade.

While this maturity might imply a relative period of stability for the industry, however, there are undoubtedly some very significant changes on the horizon.  International opportunities abound, new analytic tools promise jumps in portfolio profitability, and new technologies like smart cards, and micro-payments enabled by contactless cards and payment devices promise to change the landscape significantly,” according to Brian O’Keeffe, Director of Mercator Advisory Group’s Credit Advisory Service.

Beneath this, account management systems remain the backbone of the card business.  Handling all of the mundane account setup, authorization, processing and reporting functions that make the industry go, these workhorse systems also must adapt to the changing environment and support all of the new initiatives dreamed up by card issuers and processors.  And as the business of running a credit card portfolio grows more and more complex, the demands of the account management systems will grow as well.

The current crop of account management systems is well tuned to handle the needs of today’s issuers.  But this report will discuss some of the future developments that issuers should be thinking about now as they make account management platform decision:

  *  How will these systems adapt to new technologies and the new data they may be required to handle because of them, increasing transaction burdens and a heightened focus on interaction with other systems?

  *  How well will these systems fit into the bank’s broader customer service and sales efforts?

  *  How able are these systems to interoperate with the core banking system and other key product support platforms?

  * What of new expansion into new card products, new card markets, and new legal, regulatory and data security environments?

  *  How well will these account management systems react to the changing demands placed upon them by issuers and processors in these new and constantly evolving environments?

This report contains 29 pages and 3 exhibits.  Members of Mercator Advisory Group have access to these reports as well as the upcoming research for the year ahead, presentations, analyst access and other membership benefits. Please visit us online at

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