Credit Card Debt ? Watch Your Credit Report and Your Bill

Most consumers are aware of the importance of their credit report. This document, offered to consumers and lenders by the three major credit bureaus, offers a fairly complete list of financial transactions and debts incurred by a consumer. Lenders examine the report, along with the associated FICO score, to determine whether a consumer is worthy of receiving additional credit or loans. What many consumers may not know is that credit card companies regularly check their credit reports, and unfavorable entries may result in a higher interest rate on their credit cards.

We have previously noted that many credit card companies employ something known as a "universal default clause" in their terms of service. This clause allows the company to raise interest rates on the customer's card if the customer pays bills late. A late payment to the phone company could result in a higher interest rate on the Visa card. Most companies also allow themselves the latitude to raise their customers' interest rates for any reason at all. With this in mind, the credit card companies tend to run occasional credit checks on their customers, often raising rates if they notice any activity that, in their opinion, makes the customer a higher risk. This might happen even if the customer has a history of paying his or her credit card bills on time.

The sorts of things that may create a "risky" client include taking out additional loans, additional credit cards, or building balances on existing cards to at or near their limits. The companies justify this activity by saying that consumers who do these things create greater risk for the lender, and these costs must be passed on to all of their customers. The problem for the customer is that these higher interest rates are often assigned without warning. The new rate applies to existing balances, too. An interest rate hike today could mean that the television you bought last fall has suddenly become more expensive.

What can consumers do? Keep an eye on your credit card bill and your credit report. You can receive a copy of your credit report, for free, at http://www.annualcreditreport.com. As for your credit card bill, watch the interest rate. If it abruptly changes to a higher rate, call your credit card issuer and ask them about it. They will often reduce the rate if you call and complain. If not, your only option may be to shop around for another card.

©Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site devoted to establishing credit, debt consolidation and credit counseling.

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