CFPB report: Market for college credit cards grows smaller as issuers dry up

The market for credit cards issued to college students is getting smaller, the federal consumer financial protection agency said Monday in a report, as the number of issuers dries up.

In its report on college credit card agreements (which mostly covers agreements in force in 2018), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) asserts that it found the market for college credit cards “is getting smaller by all the metrics we track.” The agency said that is a general trend that dates back a decade.

The CFPB report is the eighth issued by the agency, and the tenth overall (as the Federal Reserve issued the first two). The report is required by the 2009 Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act (CARD Act), which requires credit card issuers to submit agreements they make with colleges (and organizations affiliated with colleges) to the CFPB.

Overall trends in college credit card agreements (from CFPB 2019 College Credit Card Agreements, report to Congress)

The bureau also said it found that there were fewer issuers of the cards in 2018 who were “parties to college credit card agreements compared to last year and that agreements with alumni associations continue to make up the largest part of this market.”

The agency acknowledged that its findings are subject to “a number of limitations.”

“Some college agreements cover other financial products besides credit cards, such as deposit accounts, so payments made by issuers under these agreements may not relate solely to credit card accounts,” the bureau stated. “In addition, some or all of the accounts opened in connection with these agreements, even those directly between issuers and institutions, may have been opened by individuals who are not students, such as alumni, faculty, and staff of an institution of higher education.”

2019 College credit card agreements