Financial Literacy - Credit savvy
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Americans dislike credit cards

Changes to lines of credit

Credit card companies recently have attempted to reduce their risk by cutting credit lines.

That can be a problem for consumers. It affects their credit score directly and also limits their purchasing power. Many people use credit cards to cover emergencies or as a secondary -- or primary -- emergency fund.

Yet in Bankrate's survey, only 6 percent of Americans have experienced a credit line reduction in the past year and 44 percent report that their credit line has remained unchanged. Forty-one percent actually say their credit limit was increased.

The numbers struck some experts who reviewed the poll as somewhat dubious based on their experiences.

"Six percent who have had their credit limit decreased, that doesn't jibe with what I'm hearing out there," says Bucci.

"We're getting a lot of complaints about credit lines being decreased, says Detweiler. "I guess we hear from the people who are having problems and not the ones that are not having problems."

Bucci believes that the 44 percent who said that their credit lines have not changed may be simply unaware that their limits have been cut.

"I would bet that these people don't know if their credit line was changed. People who didn't pay attention to their mortgages don't pay attention to their credit card terms either. I think that is why the unchanged number is so high," he says.

Hardekopf also believes that some of those in the unchanged camp were blithely oblivious.

"My concern is that consumers just aren't aware that their credit line could have been cut. It's very important to check that," he says.

"The issuer does not take out a billboard in front of your house that says your credit line has been decreased from $10,000 to $6,000. It can come as a stuffer in your monthly bill, it can come as a separate mailer that may look like a piece of junk mail. As a consumer, it is your responsibility to know," Hardekopf says.

Those with higher incomes were more likely to get a credit increase, proving that when you have money, financial institutions can't wait to give you more. More than half (51 percent) of people making $75,000 per year or more had their credit limits increased this year.

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"Nevertheless, when you see big issuers like Citibank, Bank of America and Chase taking action on credit lines, it's surprising to have this many people saying their credit lines were increased," says Detweiler.

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