Number of college credit card agreements down 79% from 2009-2019, CFPB report shows

A “general trend of decline” in the number of agreements between credit card issuers and institutions of higher education has continued over the 10 years ending in 2019, according to a report issued Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

“Overall, between 2009 and 2019 the number of agreements in effect, year-end open accounts, and payments by issuers all declined by more than two-thirds,” the bureau said. “Agreements with alumni associations continue to represent the large majority of agreements, accounts, and payments by issuers.”

Overall trends in college credit card agreements (Source: CFPB report, Table 1)

There were 1,045 such agreements in effect in 2009, the report shows, but only 220 were in effect in 2019, for a decline in number of agreements of nearly 80% over the 10-year period. Under these agreements, there were 2,041,511 accounts open at year-end 2009 but 608,117 at year-end 2019 – declining in number by about 70%. The number of payments yearly declined about 73.5% by year-end 2019, according to the report data.

Credit card issuers are required under the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) to submit annual reports to the CFPB providing information on agreements with institutions of higher education, or certain organizations affiliated with them. The bureau reports the information to Congress and makes the information publicly available.

While reporting an ongoing decline in such agreements, the CFPB also noted that overall payments by issuers remain stable. “Agreements with alumni associations continue to represent the large majority of agreements, accounts, and payments by issuers,” it said.

The bureau noted that it published a statement in March offering temporary flexibility in reporting on these agreements amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it didn’t require that those availing themselves of that flexibility to report it to the bureau. In that statement, the CFPB said it did not intend to cite an examination or initiate an enforcement action for failing to submit certain information regarding the agreements.

The bureau, in Thursday’s report, said that while the findings and date in the report may not “completely” represent the current state of college credit card agreements, it doesn’t believe the complete data “would result in findings that deviate substantially from those outlined in this report.”

College Credit Card Agreements (October 2020)