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Dear Liz: I had a $9,000 balance on a credit card I’ve held since 1971. This year, I paid it off, and within a week the issuer lowered my credit limit from $10,800 to $750. I never was late or over the limit on this or any other credit card. I know this action will lower my credit scores, since I have less credit available. Why and how can banks get away with treating longtime customers this way? What should I do? I tried going up the chain of command at the issuer and no one cares.

Answer: You weren’t over the limit, but you were very close to your limit, which these days makes risk-shy issuers very, very nervous. The dramatic reduction in your credit limit was the issuer’s way of saying, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.” Your loyalty as a customer clearly didn’t mean much to this particular company.

Fortunately, you can find better treatment elsewhere. If your credit scores are good (740 or above), plenty of other issuers will be happy to give you a credit card. Even if they’re not so great, you may find a happy home with a local credit union that issues cards.

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Categories : Credit Cards, Q&A

8 Comments

1

Definitely shop for a better potential fit for you, but don’t be so fast to close down the old card. Closing an account you’ve held for nearly 40 years could prove hazardous to the credit history portion of your credit score.

2

So what do you suggest? Pay off a credit card or leave a small balance on the credit card?

3

Pay it off. No sense rewarding a company that’s going to treat you this way.

4

Hi Liz,

I have several maxed out credit cards, and have been paying only the minimums for almost a year. I will soon have the ability to pay them off.

Obviously my credit ratio has lowered my credit score by a lot. If I pay the cards off over several months (rather than all at once), do you think that there’s a lower risk of them lowering my limit?

What would you recommend that I do to preserve the credit limits I have now?

Thanks,
Kal

5

I know what this is like. I had a fallout in credit the last 2 years because of my business and paid down credit cards to have them cancelled and my oldest which never carried a debt as the balance was always paid off on time was cancelled despite my history of payments. Your credit score is the only thing that matters.

6

Unfortunately, Kal, it’s impossible to predict what the issuers will do. I’m not sure that paying them off slowly helps, since some issuers will “chase down the balance” no matter what you do.

7

Thanks for your response :) I brought up paying them off slowly, because 6 months ago I made a $500 payment on one of the cards, and they lowered the limit by $500. I called them and they cited as reasons my credit score and also that for a while, I had been paying only the minimum and spending the remaining credit.

My thinking is if for a few months I paid a couple hundred dollars and not put anything new on the card, it would build up a “habit” and they might recognize that. Do credit card companies work that way at all?

Thanks,
Kal

8

I wouldn’t count on issuers to be that smart. Typically, the ones who want to chase down your balance will do so whether you pay off the card over time or in a lump sum, so you might as well save yourself some interest by paying in full and looking for a different issuer.