Credit Cards in the ‘Next Normal’

Strategies Leading US Credit Card Providers Are Using to Reimagine Products and Messaging as the Vaccine Rolls Out

Executive Summary

After the coronavirus pandemic forced issuers to adapt rewards, enhance forbearance, and build out digital tools to cope with a volume hit in 2020, they’re looking to reimagine their offerings in the future to add new customers and regain primary card status.

Three Key Questions This Report Will Answer

  • What economic conditions will be key to issuers’ return to growth after the pandemic cut into their business in 2020?
  • In the next three stages of pandemic recovery, how will spending trends and underwriting risk shift for issuers?
  • What emerging rewards offerings, credit access initiatives, and digital tools will issuers enable in these phases to retain existing customers and attract new users?

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? Insider Intelligence evaluates the future of consumer credit cards through a pandemic-focused lens. After recapping the events of 2020 and exploring the state of the industry, we divide the pandemic recovery into three phases beginning in 2021, identify economic and spending trends within each phase, and determine how they might affect credit card spending, customer acquisition, retention, and risk. We then discuss core trends in the realm of rewards, credit access, and the digital user experience—three categories that drive volume, engagement, and new account acquisition for issuers—and identify tactics issuers will likely take to drive growth in each phase.

KEY STAT: After falling to $1.902 trillion in 2020, Insider Intelligence expects credit card spending in-store to rebound to $2.018 trillion in 2021—exceeding pre-pandemic levels—and maintain growth through 2022.

Here’s what’s in the full report


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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Key Points
  3. Introduction
  4. US Credit Cards in 2020
  1. Recession and Early Recovery: Vaccine Drive and Stimulus
  2. Getting Back to Normal: Removal of Restrictions
  3. The New Normal: Reinvention
  4. Definitions and Key Terms
  1. Read Next
  2. Media Gallery

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Jaime Toplin


David Morris
Julia Woolever
Alicia Young
Research Editor