Nearly 50 Million Cardholders Had Credit Limits Reduced, Card Closed Involuntarily in Last Month Due to COVID-19 Impact

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CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — One in four American credit cardholders said they’ve involuntarily had their credit limit slashed on at least one of their credit cards or even had a card closed by their issuer in the past 30 days, according to a new report from CompareCards.

Full report:

Key findings:

  • 25% of credit cardholders saw their limit slashed and/or their card closed altogether in the past 30 days.
  • 3 in 10 cardholders are using credit cards “more than ever” since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Forty-two percent are using their credit card the same as before, and 27% are using their card less.
  • Forty-one percent of Americans don’t know that their credit card issuer can generally cut their credit limit without notification.

Matt Schulz, Chief Credit Analyst for CompareCards by LendingTree said, “I’m not surprised that credit card issuers are reining in available credit, but I was definitely surprised by just how widespread it already is. That means that millions of Americans are going to be without a lifeline that they may have been counting on to get them to their next paycheck or unemployment payment, and that’s troubling. No one wants to have to rely on credit cards to act like an emergency fund in tough economic times, but that’s the reality for many Americans.”

Card closures, credit limit reductions hit many groups

After analyzing the data from this survey, CompareCards analysts were surprised by the large number of cardholders who said they had their credit limit slashed or their credit card closed involuntarily. Because of that, the team ran the survey a second time in order to confirm the findings. After analyzing the second round of data, analysts are confident in presenting the original set of data here.

The results showed that nearly 50 million American credit cardholders said they have had their credit limit slashed or their card closed in the past 30 days.

  • 37% of Gen Z, 36% of millennials, and 35% of Gen X cardholders said they were affected. That compares with just 8% of baby boomers.
  • Men (37%) were three times more likely than women (12%) to see their limits cut.
  • Even 36% of those earning $100,000 or more had their limit slashed or card closed in the past month.

Why would an issuer cut credit limits? To minimize risk. In good economic times, banks are more than happy to give cards and bump up credit limits for good borrowers because lenders are confident that they’ll get repaid. In uncertain economic times, when a consumer’s financial life can literally be turned upside down in a day, banks get nervous. That available credit suddenly looks like an untenable risk, so banks often rein it in, to the chagrin of the cardholder.

Big impact at a tough time for cardholders

While the moves make bottom-line sense for card issuers, they don’t make it any easier for cardholders, as for many of them, the reductions and closures come at the worst possible time.

Complicating things more, banks aren’t required to inform cardholders that their limits are being slashed, except in a few cases. (For example, if a reduced credit limit leads to an over-the-limit fee being charged to the cardholder, the fee cannot be charged unless the bank gives the cardholder 45 days’ notice.) For most other major changes to a credit card’s terms and conditions – think APRs and annual fees – the Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires issuers to give cardholders 45 days’ notice before a change can be made.

Just 16% of respondents said they knew that their issuer typically didn’t have to inform them about the lower credit limit. That means that an awful lot of cardholders may get an unpleasant surprise at just the wrong time.

Add in the fact that 30% of cardholders said they’re using their credit cards more than ever since the beginning of the outbreak, and you see that these limit reductions and card closures can have a major impact on cardholders’ budgets.

Reduced limits can hurt your credit, too

Lower credit limits and closed credit cards don’t just impact how much consumers can spend using credit cards, but it can also have a huge effect on credit scores. That’s because the credit utilization rate can take a hit as a result.

The utilization rate is calculated by comparing outstanding balances to how available credit you have. If you have a $1,000 balance and $5,000 of available credit, your utilization rate is 20%. However, if your credit limit shrinks to just $2,000, your utilization is suddenly a sky-high 50%, and your credit score will likely pay a price.

Utilization rate is the second-most important factor in credit scoring formulas, second only to payment history. A big hit to utilization rate will likely negative impact the overall credit score, an additional hurdle that no one whose financial lives have been flipped upside down by the coronavirus outbreak needs to face right now.

The bottom line: Take steps to minimize the damage – or possibly avoid it altogether

Ultimately, there’s nothing consumers can do that is guaranteed to keep a bank from reducing credit limits or closing a credit card account altogether. The bank will do what it is going to do. But there are a few steps that can help.

  • Ask your issuer to reconsider. Chances of success may not be high, but it is worth asking.
  • Don’t just focus on a single card. If you typically just use the same card for every purchase, consider changing things up for a bit. That way, you’re able to breathe some life into a once-dormant card without taking on any extra expense.
  • Move small recurring payments to a dormant card. Subscribe to Netflix, Spotify or other streaming services? Consider moving these small recurring charges to a little-used card instead, and then set up autopay to handle the payments. That regular $10 to $20 charge keeps your card active without adding any unnecessary expense to your budget.
  • Ask for a limit increase on another card. This can help you recoup lost available credit and salvage your utilization rate. In normal times, these requests are often granted. Today, however, issuers will likely be stingier. The exception: If you can prove that you’ve been financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and apply for help through an issuer’s hardship program.
  • Get another credit card. Same as above. This can help you replace the available credit you lost, but it will likely be harder to be approved today than it was just a month or two ago.
  • Keep credit in perspective. In times of financial crisis, there are more important things than protecting your credit score. Prioritize what needs to be taken care of first, like keeping the lights on, putting food on the table and asking for help from your lenders.

Schulz adds, “You have to be proactive. No one cares as much about your money as you do, so ultimately, the onus is on you to protect what you have and do what’s best for you and your family.”

To view the full report and for more information, visit

About LendingTree
LendingTree (NASDAQ: TREE) is the nation’s leading online marketplace that connects consumers with the choices they need to be confident in their financial decisions. LendingTree empowers consumers to shop for financial services the same way they would shop for airline tickets or hotel stays, comparing multiple offers from a nationwide network of over 500 partners in one simple search, and can choose the option that best fits their financial needs. Services include mortgage loans, mortgage refinances, auto loans, personal loans, business loans, student refinances, credit cards and more. Through the My LendingTree platform, consumers receive free credit scores, credit monitoring and recommendations to improve credit health. My LendingTree proactively compares consumers’ credit accounts against offers on our network, and notifies consumers when there is an opportunity to save money. In short, LendingTree’s purpose is to help simplify financial decisions for life’s meaningful moments through choice, education and support. LendingTree, LLC is a subsidiary of LendingTree, Inc. For more information, go to, dial 800-555-TREE, like our Facebook page and/or follow us on Twitter @LendingTree.
About CompareCards:
CompareCards’ mission is to help people make smarter, more informed, healthier financial decisions based on deeper knowledge of financial offers. Each month, over 2.9 million visitors come to CompareCards’ website to independently compare credit cards side-by-side and choose a credit card based on interest rate, reward benefit, cost savings, and other factors that are important to each person. CompareCards provides easy-to-use, objective tools and educational resources that help people do everything from making credit card comparisons to managing their credit health. For more information, please visit


SOURCE CompareCards


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Section 13(1)  When a licensee establishes a debt management plan for a debtor, the licensee may charge and receive an initial fee of $50.00

Section 13(2)  A licensee shall attempt to obtain consent to participate in a debt management plan from at least 51%, in number or dollar amount, of the debtor’s creditors within 90 days after establishing the debt management plan. If the required consent is not actually received by the licensee, the licensee shall provide notice to the debtor of the lack of required consent and the debtor may, at its option, close the account. If the debtor decides to close the account, any unexpended funds shall be returned to the debtor or disbursed as directed by the debtor.

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(a) Each creditor to which payments will be made and the amount owed each creditor. A licensee may rely on records of the debtor and other information available to it to determine the amount owed to a creditor.

(b) The total amount of the licensee’s charges.

(c) The beginning and termination dates of the contract.

(d) The principal amount and approximate interest charges of the debtor’s obligations to be paid under the debt management plan.

(e) The name and address of the licensee and of the debtor.

(f) Any other provisions or disclosures that the director determines are necessary for the protection of the debtor and the proper conduct of business by a licensee.

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(2) A licensee may offer a debtor the option to purchase credit reports or educational materials and products, and charge a fee to the debtor if the debtor elects to purchase any of those items from the licensee.  Fees charged under this subsection are not subject to the 15% limitation on fees described in subsection (1).

(3) Except for a cancellation described in subsection (4), in the event of cancellation of or default in the performance of the contract by the debtor before its successful completion, a licensee may collect $25.00 in addition to any fees and charges of the licensee previously received by the licensee. This $25.00 fee is not subject to the 15% limitation on fees and charges under subsection (1).

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(5) If a debtor fails to make a payment of any amount to a licensee within 60 days after the date a payment is due under a contract, the licensee may, in its discretion, cancel the debt management contract if it determines that the plan is no longer suitable for the debtor, the debtor fails to affirmatively communicate to the licensee the debtor’s desire to continue the plan, or the creditors of the debtor refuse to continue accepting payments under the plan.

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