Credit card companies are still throwing lots of changes at consumers. I got a comment from a reader that her credit limit was reduced with very little notice. Card companies are also raising the stakes for being a cardholder.  If you miss one payment, you’ll pay.

Bank of America added a penalty APR to some cardholder accounts earlier this year.  The penalty is up to 29.99% for missing just one payment. It’s applied to new transactions if your payment is late. What happened to the days of calling your credit card company and explaining to them that life got in the way of your payment date for the first time in three years?

It’s a reminder to read your mail, instead of instantly shredding letters that appear to be credit card notices. Make sure you look inside the envelope so you are certain it’s a credit card offer rather than an important notice about your account.  It’s easy to miss one of these warning letters about changes to your account.

Credit card companies won’t cut you any slack.  They are trying all sorts of things as they recoup lost money from new credit card rules.

Set up alerts with your credit card company. Go into your account settings and set up an alert to remind you when a payment is due.  You’ll get an email in your Inbox that reminds you to make that payment. Set up an automatic bill pay option with your bank so your bill automatically gets paid every month.  With a variable bill like this, that means you have to keep good track of your account balance so you don’t overdraft.

As for the consumers who are seeing their credit limit reduced, it’s likely because your debt to credit ratio is too close.  This means you’re spending a lot of money — so much it’s putting you close to your limit. Credit card companies look at all your accounts so if you’re close on one card that could be enough to lower your limit on another card.

Also, card companies have been lowering limits for the last few years as a knee jerk reaction to this economic crisis.  Banks extended too much credit to people. They spent it all, maxing out cards, and now they’re struggling to pay it back.  Even consumers who have great credit scores have had their limits reduced the last few years.

There are a variety of reasons your limit may be reduced or a penalty APR added to your account. Most of the time they have nothing to do with anything you did. There’s often little you can do to get the policy change reversed. I’d still call and question it, and express your discontent and let them know if you’re looking at other options. They don’t want to lose customers, but the banks also don’t want to lose money.  They want to make money off you, and will find new ways to generate that income.

None of these changes will really impact you if you use credit cards wisely and not as another form of income.  Spend only what you can afford. If that’s hard to do, maybe it’s time to put the plastic away and turn to cash. After all, cash sometimes is more rewarding as gas stations and even some health care providers are offering cash discounts.

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