The push is on for premium credit cards

Highway sign with the words Rewards-Next Exit

If you're still getting credit card offers in the mail, chances are they're for pricey premium cards.

Credit card companies sent 28% more direct mail offers for premium cards in the second quarter than in the first three months of the year, even though they reduced the total number of offers by 8%, according to direct-marketing research company Mintel Comperemedia.

In the first half of 2009, premium cards accounted for 19% of the mail campaigns Mintel Comperemedia tracked, up from 9% in the first half of 2008.

Issuers are pushing premium cards because they're more profitable.

The cards are usually aimed at more affluent consumers who are likely to buy more and default less than the average cardholder.

Issuers market premium cards as more prestigious to carry than run-of-the-mill credit cards, and they enhance that sense of exclusivity by charging annual fees that can run as high as $500.

In return, customers are pampered with more generous credit limits, reward programs and perks, such as 24-hour concierge services.

With 5% of all accounts now delinquent, it seems the credit card companies have decided to battle more ferociously over what they perceive to be the best credit card customers.

Mintel Comperemedia says about 118 million pieces of mail went out advertising the two top-tier bankcards -- MasterCard World and Visa Signature -- in the second quarter, up from 75 million in the previous three months.

Other campaigns sought to introduce several news premium cards, such as the Chase Sapphire and Barclays Black card.

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