NEW YORK (Credit.com) -- Credit unions may have experienced a big bump in membership following last year’s Bank Transfer Day, but the small financial institutions still have a way to go when it comes to the credit card market.
According to the latest Experian/Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Report, a quarterly analysis of consumer credit trends, credit unions make up a very small part of the bank card industry, accounting for only 3.66% of originations during the first quarter of 2012.
Michele Raneri, Experian’s vice president of analytics, says the small percentage is partially due to the fact that, by their very nature, membership-only credit unions have fewer customers. However, “large banks have a wide spectrum of products for a wide variety of consumers,” she adds. For instance, they may have several travel rewards cards, balance transfer cards and general rewards cards in their arsenal to woo a wider customer base.
Credit unions, on the other hand, typically have a single card designed to monitor cash flow.
“They just don’t have the bandwidth to supply credit to more people,” Raneri says.
But the smaller variety of offerings shouldn’t dissuade some consumers from applying for a credit union product. According to Experian’s data, credit unions are actually more apt to lend to applicants who don’t necessarily have perfect credit scores.
“They have made an effort to supply more credit to a little bit lower of a VantageScore compared to the rest of the market,” Raneri says. Current 2012 bank card originations show credit unions lending to consumers who average a VantageScore of 761, while the entire market is running an average of 799. (Note: VantageScore operates on a scale of 500 to 990.)
Credit unions also tend to emphasize different aspects of a person’s credit report than their larger counterparts.
“[Credit Unions] are more willing to grant new bank cards to consumers who were a little bit more maxed out,” says Raneri. However, while they do pay less attention to utilization, they are more stringent when it comes to delinquencies. In 2012, only approximately 1.25% of new credit union originations were awarded to consumers who had missed two or more payments over the last two years. Comparatively, approximately 1.8% of originations were awarded to consumers with similar delinquencies throughout the entire market.
Experian aggregated the data from its customer database. Bank card originations exclude retail or mono-line cards, which can only be used at one establishment.
In addition to the different lending criteria, many credit unions do offer competitive rates and rewards on their products. You can find out some of your better options in this round up.
--By Jeanine Skowronski
Jeanine's work has been featured by TheStreet, Newsweek, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Fox Business, Forbes, CNBC and various other online publications. She has previously served as the managing editor of a small personal finance blog for Xanga.com and an editorial assistant at Maxim Fashion magazine.