Meredith Whitney, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. is predicting that credit card issuers may cut as much as $2 trillion worth of available credit in the near future, representing about 45% of today’s levels.
The Motley Fool has decided to call this The Death of Credit Cards, but we’ll be co-existing with them for as long as people want to borrow from their future selves. (That, or you’re clever like my man Flexo, who only uses them for the rewards. I’m not that clever, but I’m working on it.)
Here’s the crux of the story:
Closing millions of accounts, cutting credit lines and raising interest rates are just some of the moves credit card issuers are using to try to inoculate themselves from a tsunami of expected consumer defaults.
We’ve already seen Citigroup raising rates for nearly all customers across the board (even though the national average credit card interest rate continues to decline).
Citigroup said it would be raising rates 2 to 3 percent, but from the comments we received on the story a couple of weeks ago, the average seemed to be about 7 to 10 percent. And this seemed to be happening even to people with good FICO scores and payment histories.
Now Citigroup, as well as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, are considering closing accounts, as well as lowering credit limits. Given Citigroup’s recent history, what are the chances that these actions will only be taken on customers with poor histories? If you’ve delicately balanced your available credit in order to keep a high FICO score, this could have serious repercussions.