Personal bankruptcies increased for the second straight year in 2017, and at an accelerated rate, according to figures in a preliminary report released by the Supreme Court.

Individual declarations of bankruptcy rose to 68,791, a hike of 6.4 percent. The growth rate in 2016 was significantly lower, at 1.2 percent.

The acceleration of the increase was apparently attributable in part to so-called “bank card loans” whose value has grown sharply in recent years.

Bank card loans allow banks to lend money at high interest rates of more than 10 percent a year, with no collateral required. In addition, the law imposes no upper limits on the amounts that can be borrowed, allowing banks to extend the loans repeatedly for each borrower within the limits they set up by themselves.

Some banks have provided card loans whose amounts exceed borrowers’ annual incomes, an approach that is said to be causing the increase in personal bankruptcies.

The number of personal bankruptcies was in long-term decline until 2015 after peaking at about 240,000 in 2003.

The decrease was mainly driven by the strengthening of regulations for consumer finance companies. As many people were heavily indebted with loans from those firms, the Moneylending Control Law underwent a revision in 2006 that fully took effect in 2010.

As a result, so-called “gray-zone interest rates” of higher than 20 percent were abolished. In addition, loans whose amounts exceeded one-third of borrowers’ annual incomes were banned.

Meanwhile, bank card loans were exempted from the strengthened regulations as banks were regulated by the Banking Law. As a result, the value of those loans increased by as much as 60 percent over the four years from spring 2013. The outstanding balance of bank card loans has now exceeded that of loans extended by consumer financing companies.

According to Bank of Japan statistics, the outstanding balance of bank card loans stood at 5.746 trillion yen (about $53 billion) as of the end of 2017, up 5.7 percent from a year earlier.

The Japanese Bankers Association required its member banks to take measures to prevent excessive lending in spring 2017 in response to the criticism. And in autumn last year, the government’s Financial Services Agency inspected the card loan businesses of major banks and other financial institutions.

Many banks have begun to curb the amounts lent via card loans to a maximum of half of the borrowers’ annual incomes and to self-regulate commercials for those loans.