Consumers are showing their ire toward issuers by closing credit card accounts.
According to a report released Monday by Consumer Reports, 32% of cardholders have paid off and closed an account since January of last year, and half of them did so in response to new policies from issuers, such as adding fees, lowering credit limits or raising interest rates.
Consumer Reports, which is published by Consumers Union, a Yonkers, N.Y., advocacy company, polled 1,211 credit card users by phone in July. Twenty-one percent said they had been treated poorly by issuers, and only 41% said they were highly satisfied with issuers, one of the lowest rates for all the services the company tracks.
Consumers Union said it received "scores" of letters and e-mails from consumers irate that issuers had changed the terms of their accounts.
The survey also found that people were using credit cards less than in the past. Forty-five percent said they were charging less than a year earlier, 43% said their card habits were roughly unchanged and only 11% were spending more on their cards than they had been a year earlier.
About a third of those surveyed did not have a credit card, the report said.
Of those who did have cards, 54% were paying their balances in full every month. Thirty-three percent had balances of up to $10,000 (the median was $2,554) and 13% had balances exceeding $10,000, with a median balance of $17,366.
The American Bankers Association said last week that more consumers are finding it harder to pay their credit card bills.
Credit card delinquencies rose to 5.01% of total card loans during the second quarter, from 4.75% the previous quarter and 4.54% a year earlier. The ABA's report defines delinquencies as payments at least 30 days past due.
"Six consecutive quarters of job losses have taken their toll. With jobs lost and work hours cut, it doesn't take long for the financial pressure to become overwhelming," James Chessen, the ABA's chief economist, said in a press release.
"Falling behind on debt payments is an unfortunate side effect of high unemployment and a frozen job market," Chessen said. "The picture won't change until the labor market improves and the economy picks up steam."