credit cards
5 smart credit-card moves in 2009

We also may see some fees change and new ones implemented under the new regulations, says Ken Paterson, director of the Credit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group, a research firm for the consumer payments industry in Maynard, Mass.

Your best money move: If promotional offers do go extinct, Arnold suggests trying balance transfer cards that offer a low rate for the life of the loan. Another option is getting a card from a smaller bank or credit union, which tend to offer more consumer- friendly terms. Use our comparison tool to find the best credit card.

3. A sustained squeeze on existing cardholders 

"I think credit lines are going to continue to be cut," Arnold says. "I think that's a trend that's going to continue as issuers try to hedge their risk." He predicts that issuers will also keep raising rates, closing unused accounts and increasing underwriting standards.

As of Nov. 19, the average interest rate charged on all cards was 12 percent for fixed-rate cards and 11.27 percent for all cards. However, banks aren't hesitating to raise rates on those with imperfect credit. Major card issuers indicated to Bankrate in October that they are placing applications and existing accounts under heavier scrutiny for risk and closing inactive accounts deemed too risky.

Around 60 percent of U.S. banks reported slashing lines for nonprime borrowers during the past three months, and 20 percent reduced limits for prime cardholders, according to the senior loan officer survey.

Having lower credit limits can make cardholders appear more maxed out because the balance uses up more of the available credit. The result can be a lower credit score, which can invite changes to other accounts and make loans more expensive.


On a positive note, smaller credit lines may help curtail spending temptations.

Your best money move: Don't invite scrutiny. Pay on time, reduce debt and keep statement balances below 30 percent of the credit limit. Use emergency-only cards once every six months to keep them active and pay them off. Read every mailing from your issuer and complain if you notice an adverse adjustment. If you plan to retaliate by closing an account, understand what canceling a card does to your credit score.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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