It's Your Money: Credit Card Crunch - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

It's Your Money: Credit Card Crunch

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MADISON (WKOW)--Credit card reform is turning into a rebellion.  As the federal government pushes toward stricter rules for credit card companies, those companies are passing on their pain to customers.

"Lenders don't know who to trust anymore. And so almost all of us are paying a premium for that lack of trust in the economy.  You notice in the fine print about late fees, over the balance fees, annual fees, they all seem to be going up and they're being levelled pretty aggressively," says University of Wisconsin financial specialist Michael Collins.

Collins says credit card companies are hitting customers with lower credit limits and higher interest rates and fees.

"You notice in the fine print about late fees, over the balance fees, annual fees, they all seem to be going up and they're being levelled pretty aggressively."

And with credit card reform looming, a customer favorite, rewards cards, are already starting to disappear.

"We're seeing fewer of the zero-rate teaser offers. We're seeing, in general, offers with lower limits; you're not being offered as much credit as you used to be.  I think we are going to see fewer of the teaser offers, the balance transfer, the special gift offers.  And the truth is, those deals weren't that great for most consumers anyway."

So, what are your options if you're treated poorly by your credit card company?  First, pick up the phone and call them.  Ask for customer retention, and request that the higher interest rate or lower credit limit be restored to what it was.

But that's only going to work if you pay on time and have a good credit record. If not, you might look for another card.

"If you're paying more than 12-13% right now, it's worth shopping around, you might be a good candidate for a balance transfer."

But, just because you get a new card doesn't mean you should close that old account, because that can hurt your credit score.

Instead, pay off the balance, and put the card away so the account stays open, but inactive.

And, at the very least, you can protect yourself by reading anything and everything the credit card company sends you.  By law, they have to notify you of changes to interest rates and credit limits, so you at least know before you use the card again.

Click here for more information on credit cards and your rights.

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