Help! My APR's been hiked to 27.99 percent

The Credit Guy columnist Todd Ossenfort
Todd Ossenfort has been chief operating officer for Pioneer Credit Counseling since 1998. He writes our weekly "The Credit Guy" column, answering reader questions about credit counseling and debt issues.

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Question for the expert

Dear Credit Guy,
Please help me!!! My APR was raised from 15.99 percent to 27.99 percent on a Visa that I no longer use and have been paying down. I did not receive the notice the company said they sent me; however, nothing has changed in my finances. I have never missed a payment -- in fact, another credit card company reduced my APR. When I called they told me they would send a letter notifying me of why my APR was raised. I've contacted one of the credit reporting bureaus to get my annual credit report to see if something has been added that I am not aware of. Do I have any recourse or is there any way to close the account at the previous rate and just pay it off? It feels like highway robbery! Thanks. -- Anna

Answer for the expert

Dear Anna,
Unfortunately, many credit card issuers are making changes to cardholder accounts that are not received well by cardholders, to say the least. Raising interest rates, decreasing credit limits limits and closing inactive accounts are among the actions being taken to increase the credit available to creditors to loan and make more money on the credit they already have out on loan. A tight credit cycle such as the one we are in right now makes lenders nervous. The moves described above are in an effort to protect their assets as best they can.

What the tight credit cycle means for cardholders such as you is that you need to be aware of what is included in the agreements that you have with your card issuers and do your best to protect yourself as well. Pull out your cardholder agreements, if you can find them, and look for the term universal default. Many credit card agreements include this clause, which basically gives the creditor the right to increase your interest rate if the creditor perceives you to be a greater risk.

The creditor may view you as an increased risk if you miss a payment with another lender, increase your ratio of credit available versus credit used, obtain new credit or a variety of other reasons. Getting copies of your credit report as soon as possible is a great idea. Review your reports from all three bureaus and dispute any inaccurate information. Also, determine if all of your accounts are listed correctly. You may be surprised to find that you have inactive accounts that have been closed by your creditors. If so, you should have received notice from the creditor in the mail.

The bad news is that once an increase in APR has been made on your account, you will have to pay the balance at the new rate regardless of whether or not the account remains open or is closed. Your only options at this point are to pay off the balance in full or pursue a balance transfer to another card.

If you opt for a balance transfer, make sure you read the cardholder agreement carefully and consider continuing to shop for a different card if the agreement contains a universal default clause.

Take care of your credit!

See related: Crisis survival tips: Pay off debt, cut credit card spending,Universal default: What it is and how to avoid it

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Updated: 01-23-2019