In addition to tightening their fraud protections, the New York Times recently reported that the largest card issues may be using similar systems to monitor the credit worthiness of their own cardholders. These issuers review hundreds of data points, including home prices in the cardholder's area, the type of mortgage lender used, and whether small-business cardholders work in a distressed industry. Although the most significant factor continues to be overall debt in comparison to financial resources, some issuers may be incorporating spending patterns into their credit worthiness algorithms.
According to the Times, American Express "has been looking at how you spend your money, searching for patterns or similarities to other customers who have trouble paying their bills." When the indicators are bad, cardholder credit lines are reduced. AmEx recently sent letters to cardholders, explaining that "[o]ther customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express." The letters, however, failed to identify the problematic merchants.