The 10 biggest credit card companies in America

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Americans may need to rely on credit cards now more than ever. Unemployment rates are at historic highs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Access to your credit card’s line of credit can come in handy right now to get through these uncertain times. The problem is, credit card companies are cutting back on approving new applicants — and even reducing credit limits of existing cardholders. The $10,000 credit limit you were hoping to help you weather the current economic storm may no longer be there when you need it.

If you’re concerned about this possibility, adding a new card to your wallet as a back up isn’t a bad idea. James Stuart of Frugal Stu agrees. In these times, he prefers a card with “an introductory offer of 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for 12 to 21 months.” That way, you can cover your income shortfall without having to worry about interest for at least a year. With these cards, you should never take on more than you can afford to pay, unless it’s an absolute emergency. Any rewards earned from a credit card are easily negated if you have to start paying interest on a credit card.

But as major credit card companies drop, reduce or reject new credit card applications, which card issuers are more likely to offer enticing sign-up bonuses or even approve you right now? You may want to look at the ten largest card providers for clues of which ones are most likely to issue new credit cards.

[ Read: The best travel credit cards ]

The biggest credit card companies in the U.S.

Here’s a look at the 10 largest credit card companies in the U.S. right now, according to The Nilsen Report. If you’re looking to add a new credit card, take special notice of the number of cards each company has issued over one year. 

1. Chase

  • Percentage of market share: 16.6%
  • Cards issued: 98,580,000
  • Active card accounts: 42,224,000

Chase, incorporated in Delaware, is one of three issuers (Chase, Capital One, and Citi) that have gained market share in customer purchases over the last couple of years. Besides banking, they offer a variety of great rewards credit cards, including the Chase Freedom® Unlimited at the entry-level with no annual fee to the top-of-the-line Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

2. Citi

  • Percentage of market share: 11.6%
  • Cards issued: 72,554,000
  • Active card accounts: 39,700,000

Citi’s wide variety of cards include cashback, rewards and travel cards. Like Chase, you can bank through Citibank and link your Citi cards to your account to make managing and paying them easier. Having a banking relationship with Citibank may even improve your odds of getting approved for one of Citi’s many credit cards. Citibank is incorporated in South Dakota.

3. American Express

  • Percentage of market share: 11.3%
  • Cards issued: 45,500,000
  • Active card accounts: Not disclosed

American Express saw a small reduction in market share in 2019. And if you compare the company to other card providers, they tend to issue fewer cards per year than other companies. There are the American Express credit cards, such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, with credit limits and minimum payments due.

4. Bank of America

  • Percentage of market share: 10.7%
  • Cards issued: 54,196,000
  • Active card accounts: 29,100,000

Delaware-incorporated Bank of America also lost market share last year. They issued more cards than American Express, but if you’re looking for a new card provider, your chances of getting approved for a card are statistically lower than with other of the top ten credit card providers.

5. Capital One

  • Percentage of market share: 10.5%
  • Cards issued: 109,449,000
  • Active card accounts: 50,870,000

Capital One, based in Virginia, is well known for its travel rewards credit cards. The card issuer ranks first in how many cards they approved last year, which helped them gain market share from 2018. If you’re looking to add a new card to your wallet, a Capital One card should definitely be considered. 

6. Discover

  • Percentage of market share: 7.6%
  • Cards issued: 60,100,000
  • Active card accounts: Not disclosed

Discover had the fourth-largest increase ($4.3 billion) of the 10 largest credit card companies. Headquartered in Illinois, Discover is a great option for consumers with fair to average credit looking for an affordable card. Their credit cards come with a chance to earn as much as 10% cashback on spending (during the cash back match period), encouraging cardholders to use the card more often. 

7. Wells Fargo

  • Percentage of market share: 4.3%
  • Cards issued: 22,132,000
  • Active card accounts: 9,990,000

Wells Fargo lost a small amount of its market share but is still a solid player in the credit card industry. Incorporated in South Dakota, Wells Fargo is best known for its banking products. Wells Fargo offers cards on the Visa and American Express networks, including an enticing no-annual-fee travel card.

8. U.S. Bank

  • Percentage of market share: 4.1%
  • Cards issued: 22,099,000
  • Active card accounts: 11,637,000

Ohio-based U.S. Bank doesn’t have the market share of top card issuers such as Chase and American Express, but they do a significant amount of business. The company’s customers spent $8.6 billion, compared to Wells Fargo’s $5.8 billion in cardholder spending, even though both card issuers approved about the same number of cards over the year.

9. Barclays

  • Percentage of market share: 2.6%
  • Cards issued: 15,043,000
  • Active card accounts: 7,775,000

Barclays, incorporated in Delaware, issued the fewest number of credit cards of the companies on this list. Interestingly enough, Barclays may issue the lowest number of cards but has a large number of products to choose from since they partner with so many retailers and travel providers to issue co-branded cards. They currently have 21 credit cards ranging from hotel and travel rewards, college planning, NFL and business credit cards.

10. Synchrony Financial

  • Percentage of market share: 2%
  • Cards issued: 28,470,000
  • Active card accounts: 13,500,000

Synchrony Financial was formerly owned by GE Capital and incorporated in Utah and issues store credit cards for dozens of retailers including gas stations, Belk, Crate and Barrel, The GAP Group of stores, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Walmart and more.

Bottom line

The 10 largest credit card providers are responsible for most of the credit cards and card spending in the country. If you’re in search of a new credit card, improve your chances of getting approved by selecting credit card providers by improving your credit score. Capital One approves the most cards, followed by Chase, Citi and Discover.

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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