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Credit Card Asset-Backed Securities (ABS)

What are Credit Card Asset-backed Securities?

Credit card asset-backed securities (ABS) are fixed income bonds that are backed by the cash flow from credit cards. As companies collect on credit card payments, interests, and fees, cash flows that funds the principal and coupon payments of bonds are collected. The popularity of these securities began in 1987 as credit card use becomes more widespread.


Credit Card Asset Based Securities - Illustration of Credit Card


Quick Summary Points

  • The securitization of credit card receivables is the process of pooling together cash flow and selling it as securities.
  • Credit card asset-backed securities is split into the revolving period and amortization period.
  • Cash flow from credit cards is first put into a trust structure and then distributed to the investor and seller interest.


The Securitizing of Credit Card Receivables

Securitization is the action of pooling together cash flows from debt and selling it to third parties as securities. The securitization of credit cards began in the late 1980s as banks look for new funding sources for credit cards.


Basic master trust structure

The basic structure was used for credit card securitization before 1991. The credit card issuer will pledge the accounts and receivables to a master trust. The master trust will then sell the securities to investors. The credit card issuer keeps an interest in the master trust and the interest, principal collections, and defaults return to the bank.


Master note trust structure

Also known as issuance trusts (IT), the master note structure back bonds with a pool of revolving credit card accounts and receivables. This structure differs from earlier ones as it provides more flexibility in terms of maturities on the bonds. As credit card ABS issuers grow, they often end up with multiple master trusts. When this occurs, the issuers issue a collateral certificate. The collateral certificate allows the owner to have a claim on all the previous master trusts.


Investor interest and seller interest

Investor interest is the principal amount owed to ABS investors. The seller interest is the residual interest in the trust that the credit card issuers are required to maintain. Seller interest is important as it aligns the credit card bank with other investors as the banks themselves as a claim in the asset-based securities.


What is the Asset-backed Security Life Cycle?

The credit card asset-backed securities have two main periods after the issue. The two periods are the revolving period and the amortization period.


1. Revolving period

During the revolving period, investors do not receive principal payments. Instead, investors only receive interest. It allows issuers to use the principal collections to purchase new receivables. This period also lets the issuer finance short term credit card loans by using the principal collected.


2. Amortization period

When the amortization period begins, principal collections are used to repay the ABS investors. Unlike corporate bonds where principal payment is only made once, in the end, the principal for credit card ABS are paid gradually over a period. In a controlled amortization, principal payments are paid in equal amounts during the amortization period. On the other hand, in a controlled accumulation, principal payments are deposited into a trust account each month and then held till the maturity date.


Cash Flow Allocations

Cash flow allocation is the process of passing principal and interest on credit card accounts through the ABS trust. It also includes allocating cash flows to investors and sponsors, which can be more complex.



Making groups is one of the methods of allocating cash flow. Firstly, cash-flow is allocated between investor and seller interests. The investor interest is further split into smaller groups depending on the characteristic of the security.


Principal collections

Allocation of principal collections to series depends on the life cycle of ABS. As mentioned before the principal is only given during amortization periods. For ABS that are in the revolving period, the principal is reallocated and shared with other series.


Finance charge collections and allocations

The main fees collected by a credit card fund is the interest on the outstanding balance and late fees. When expressed as a percentage of total receivable it is called portfolio yield.


Principal discounting, interchange, recoveries

Firstly, principal discounting is a process that temporarily boosts portfolio yield and spread and is used during times where the excess spread is significantly low to avoid early amortization. Secondly, recoveries are reported as part of finance charge collections and are included in the calculation of the portfolio yield. It is used when calculating excess spread.

Lastly, an interchange is a fee paid to the bank that issued a credit card to compensate them for taking on credit risk. Credit risk is present as the bank grants the credit card user a grace free period in which they do not need to pay the amount they spent.


Additional Resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s article on Credit Card Asset-Based Securities. To keep learning and advancing your career, we recommend the resources below:

  • Fixed Income Risks
  • Senior Term Debt
  • Fixed Income Securities
  • Calculating Yield on Debt

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