According to Scott Bilker, founder of money management site DebtSmart.com, anyone applying for a new credit card these days is going to need a stellar credit score of at least 700 (if not higher) on FICO’s 300 to 850-point scale. This is roughly 100 points higher than the average levels pre-crunch.
Also compounding the problem, issuers are slashing credit limits. According to the Federal Reserve’s October survey, 20% of issuers lowered limits for prime (those with stellar credit scores), while 60% cut those of less credit-worthy borrowers. Not only does lowering a credit limit impede your ability to purchase gifts for the holidays, but it also increases the risk of overcharging, which can result in nasty fees, a higher interest rate and weigh on your credit score.
To protect yourself from going over a recently-reduced limit, check your available balance before making any large purchases.