In anticipation of the downturn in the economy, many credit card companies are reducing credit lines, denying more credit card applications, and increasing interest rates. For example, in the coming weeks America Express is raising interest rates 2-3 point in anticipation of higher charge-off in a bad economy. At Credit Karma, where we monitor over 130 credit cards, we are seeing similar actions from other major credit card issuers.
As a consumer, you should be careful of all these actions since they can impact you in several ways. Reduced credit lines will increase your credit card utilization lowering your credit score if you carry a balance, a denial for credit results in a hard inquiry also reducing your credit score, and higher interest rates could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run.
With all the potential negative effects, here are a few tips to protect both your credit and your financial options.
1. Have More than One Credit Card: A healthy credit score has 3-6 credit card trade lines. By keeping more than one card, you have the option of using the cards with better terms should any credit card decide to your raise rates or fees.
2. Keep Your Utilization Low: Along with having 3-6 credit cards, a health credit score means not using it all and being responsible. The rule of thumb is to keep utilization below 35% on a single card to maintain a good score.
3. Avoid Risky Credit Card Behavior: Credit card issuers look for signs of financial trouble from their users. Going over your limit, cash advances, abnormal balances can all be warning signs for credit cards and lead to lower credit limits or higher interest rates.
4. Negotiate Better Terms: Sometimes a simple call can save you hundreds of dollars in fees or interest rates. Many issuers have retention plans and lower rates available to customers who are thinking of closing their accounts. Keeping with tip #1, you need to have options before you can threaten to cancel.
In today’s economic environment, credit card companies are more cautious, you should be equally dilligent. Stay informed and keep your options financial options open.
Credit Karma has over 130 credit cards reviews broken out by credit requirements and reviews from users like you if you need some help choosing a card.