Maxed Out: Credit Limit Cuts

Credit limits cut, which could impact your score if you are not careful.

Black Friday deals enticed many people to get up and shop early on the day after Thanksgiving, but many credit card companies are slashing credit limits.

Janice Wood from Stafford Springs found out the hard way.

"I came home in the evening and checked my email to find out American Express had lowered my credit limit by $7,000," Wood said.

The email had been sent at 5 a.m. on the biggest shopping day of the year. Fortunately, Wood didn't use her American Express card that day.

"If I had been lucky, it would have been declined," Wood said. "If I had been un-lucky, it would have allowed me to go over my new lowered credit limit and probably doubled my interest rate."

Carlos Liard-Muriente is an economics professor at Central Connecticut State University.  He explained how card issuers are thinking.  

"If I extend that limit to you, you're probably going to use it, especially during the holidays," Liard-Muriente said.  "And the likelihood is you are not going to pay this back, therefore I'm just going to lower that limit that you have."

Through emails or letters, credit card companies have to notify you of the change.

"They are not required to tell you because we are lowering your credit limit that lowers your credit score as well," Liard-Muriente said.

Here's how it works:

Let's say you typically spend about $2,000 of your $10,000 in available credit. That's 20 percent.

If your card issuer slashes your available credit to $5,000 and you still spend $2,000, you're using a higher percentage of credit and your credit drops.

Janice Wood said it's unfair.

"They are trying to stimulate buying, but how can you buy a home or buy a car when companies like American Express are doing this and your credit score will not allow you to do either of those things," Wood said.

If your credit limit is lowered, financial experts say you should reach for cash more often to help protect your credit score.

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