You'd think that an economic environment chock-full of interest rate cuts from the Fed would lead credit card issuers to gradually decrease the rates they charge us on our plastic. But no -- many cards have actually been raising their rates recently. Bill Hardekopf of, for example, has noted rates moving in directions other than down at cards from American Express (NYSE: AXP), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC).  

What's going on? Well, there's been a bit of a financial crisis at many banks (you may have heard about it). It's related to their having issued a few regrettable mortgages to risky borrowers. So, perhaps feeling pressured, they're seeking out additional income from the likes of you and me, via the debt that we carry.

We don't have to be their suckers, though. Hardekopf offered suggestions for folks facing rate hikes:

  • Check your mail from the credit card companies, because some of them are writing about rate increases, and offering a choice: Pay off the debt at the old rate and close the card, or keep the card, but only at the higher rate.
  • Remember that you can always call and try to negotiate a lower rate. You have decent odds of getting one if you have a solid credit score and payment history. You can (and should) call the company if you're having trouble making payments. You may be able to work out a payment plan with it. After all, having you make smaller payments should be preferable to your completely defaulting and paying nothing.
  • Stay on top of your credit report, because any negative activity there can cause your rates to jump. If you see errors, you can have them fixed.

Learn more
Even if you don't carry credit card debt, the world of credit cards and card issuers is a fascinating one. Learn more about how to make the most of your credit in our Credit Center, and in the following articles:

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.