Credit Squeeze Survival Guide

More than half of all credit-card holders have been hit recently with sharply higher interest rates, or other fees and penalties. This according to a just-released survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Card companies are slipping through all sorts of changes before a new federal law takes effect in February.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center Survey found a high rate of credit-card complaints.

14% had their credit limits lowered recently, 29% were hit with new fees or penalties, and 38% said their interest rates had been hiked.

"Our survey found that fewer people are satisfied with credit-card companies than with almost any other service we assess," said Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports. "Calling up and complaining can be very effective. According to our survey, about half the time people got at least some of what they wanted."

If negotiating doesn't work, look for a card with better terms.

Consumer Reports says you can often find better credit cards from professional organizations, such as teachers' associations, from credit unions, and from community and regional banks.

"There are now often one-time fees on balance transfers, so before you switch to a new card make sure you check that." said Kleman.

And also check if the new card carries an annual fee.

That kind of charge is making an unwelcome comeback.

As Consumer Reports said, credit unions can be a good place to get a credit card.

These days it's easier to join a credit union that it used to be.

A good place to find one is at

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