ARLINGTON, Va. — Five years ago, the attitude of many credit unions toward their credit card portfolios resembled that of some farmers toward their cattle. The farmers turned the animals loose on acreage and, as long as the fences were mended and there was plenty of water, more or less forgot about them until it was time to sell them. In much the same way, credit unions would set up their card portfolios and not have to think about them all that much.

No longer. Competition from banks which only issue cards and specialize in the business, combined with the risk of card fraud and the demand for more sophisticated rewards programs has meant that credit unions have had to start actively learning the card business and managing their card portfolios. For many in the credit union industry, that was the bad news.

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