Credit Crunch Takes New Face

Dianna Kincade of Maple Grove, Minn., pays her bills on time -- but that didn't stop Sears MasterCard from cutting her credit limit in half.

"They reviewed my account and since I did not use my credit limit, they were going to decrease it," she said.

To reduce their risk, credit card companies are taking drastic steps to protect themselves from a rising wave of defaults, even if they hurt good customers, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.

"Credit card companies are facing about $40 billion in credit card losses this year and that number may double next year," said Bernard Baumohl, chief economist for the Economic Outlook Group.

That's because more consumers are falling deeper in debt. The average American has nine credit cards and owes more than $16,000, not including mortgages.

"People have been spending far more than the growth in their wages and salaries," said Baumohl.

This decade, real wages went up 4 percent while credit card debt jumped more than 75 percent.

"So what they're doing in order to balance what is happening on the negative end is to apply some pressure to their consumers," said Emily Peters of Credit.com.

The credit card companies are:

  • Raising interest rates
  • Not taking new customers
  • Reducing credit limits
  • Closing dormant accounts

    "Is it really fair for those who maintained really good credit all our lives?" asked Kincade, who actually convinced Sears MasterCard to restore her credit limit.

    "Should we have to, I guess, pay for what's going on right now in the economy?"

    Fair or not, it's a bill millions of Americans have to pay.
    • CBSNews

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