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Understanding the Effects of a Lower Credit Limit

Were you recently shocked to get a letter informing you that you now have a lower credit limit? Despite the fact that you pay your account on time consistently, or that you even pay the full balance off each month? You're not alone. Banks and credit card issuers have been shrinking credit limits for months now, but for some consumers, the news is only just hitting home. And so are the effects, like credit scores dipping, too.

Do lower credit limits automatically bring your credit score down? Of course not, but if your limits have recently been lowered and your amount of debt stays the same, it could cause your credit score to drop because you appear to be using more of your available credit. (Available credit is one of the determining factors used to calculate credit scores.) And a lower credit score could result in rate increases or higher rates on new loans and mortgages. In other words, you can't afford not to understand the effects of a lower credit limit. And your credit score.
Know your credit limits
If your credit card issuer has lowered your available credit limit, you need to know what that limit is to avoid going over it and incurring an "over-limit" fee.
Review your accounts online now to make sure you're not triggering over-limit fees
By scanning your account data online, you'll see how much you're spending and how close you're getting to the limit of any given card. Another benefit of looking at account data online and reviewing transactions, is making sure they're all yours to safeguard yourself against identity theft.
Talk to the card issuer
If you're a good customer with demonstrably good credit, the card issuer has a vested interest in keeping you, and might be willing to negotiate. At the very least, they might tell you to wait a few months and try again.
Don't try to get back at the card issuer by closing your account
Understandably, you might feel angry about having a lower credit limit, especially if you've made payments on time and never carried a balance. But don't close your account in an effort to retaliate; that tactic could backfire and end up hurting you by lowering your credit score. Whenever you close an account, do so carefully because the amount of time your accounts have been open is another factor credit bureaus use to calculate your score.

As always, the best move is to pay your credit cards off in full, both in terms of not having to pay interest charges and keeping your score where you want it to be (the less available credit you use, the better). If a complete payoff isn't a feasible option, set up goals and a plan to get out of debt. Monitoring your scores and your balances will help a lot here, too.
Now that you understand more about the effects of a lower credit limit, get your Credit Report and Score.
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