Banks’ credit downgrade could cost consumers

Late last week, one of the world's top credit rating agencies downgraded the standing of several of the nation's largest financial institutions, and the fallout could end up affecting consumers' wallets and bottom lines.

A major credit downgrade by Moody's Investors Service for institutions such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley was announced last week, and immediately prompted many Americans to wonder how it might affect their finances, according to a report from the Associated Press. And while the money they may have in savings or checking with those institutions is very much safe, there may be other factors with which bank customers should be concerned.

"It is normal that the first thing that people worry about is whether their money is safe," Jim Nadler, chief operating officer at Kroll Bond Ratings Agency, told the news agency. "But the real costs may be hidden."

For instance, a credit downgrade could lead banks to tighten their lending practices, at least for the time being, and many may start to impose more fees and higher interest rates on the accounts they offer to consumers, the report said. Experts say that this change will cause the dual problems of both increasing the fees many already pay, and adding new ones. And with banks already ramping up their efforts to charge consumers for various services that many may have received for free in the past, such additional charges could cause further damage to customers' finances.

Another potential problem with the downgrade
While banks have been significantly expanding their efforts to extend financing to borrowers who may not have had access to lending as a result of the hardships they faced during the recession, the credit downgrade could reverse that trend, the report said. And for those that are able to get financing as banks once again tighten standards, the interest rates they pay on those accounts will likely increase.

Before applying for any new line of credit, consumers should first take the time to check their credit reports. Doing so may help them identify potentially unfair markings that may harm their credit standings and restrict their access to the best rates available. Working with a credit repair agency, however, can help to clear up these problems quickly.