Deck the halls with...Debt? Or good credit?

According to a recent survey conducted by myFICO, almost half of respondents charge an average of $100-$500 more than usual on their credit cards during the holidays, which for some takes up to six months or more to pay off.

When surveyed last year, nearly 40 percent of respondents said that credit card debt was their biggest financial worry going into 2010. In our latest survey, the same number said it continues to be their main concern for 2011. As many Americans still face financial challenges, protecting already fragile credit, making wise shopping decisions, and being aware of debt will be the key to enjoying a safe and happy holiday season.

Check out these findings from a recent FICO® survey polling holiday shoppers. The results might shock you!

  • Tightening the holiday belt: 75 percent admit they will be changing holiday traditions this year due to the economy.
  • Cash or Credit?: Only 15 percent said they use cash to pay for holiday shopping.
  • Bah-hum-budget: More than half confessed they do nothing to prepare for the added bills during the holiday season.
  • 30% off now can mean points taken off your credit score later: Although most people do not apply for in-store credit cards, almost 10 percent are lured into obtaining new retail cards with upfront discounts.
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Holiday Shopping 2010 Survey Results
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Here are some tips for holiday shoppers from Shon Dellinger, FICO®'s Holiday Credit Guru:

Paying with plastic: Be wary of hidden pitfalls that could hurt your credit this holiday season. Before you open a new line of credit at your favorite retail store, remember that in addition to high interest rates, opening new retail cards or taking on any new credit can lower your FICO® credit score. Make sure the card meets your overall needs and not just your desire for quick savings.

Don't shop till you drop into debt: Everyone wants to get their family and friends the best presents this holiday, but you don’t have to compromise your financial health to do it. Just last year, 28 percent of consumers surveyed told us they had recently had at least one of their credit limits lowered – leading to higher "credit utilization" and often lower FICO® credit scores.

New year, new policies: In response to changes brought about by the CARD Act that went into effect earlier this year, many credit card issuers have added annual fees, lowered credit limits, and raised interest rates on their cards. Be aware that many lenders have tightened the amount of credit they are making available since last season and that not all cards have the generous rewards (miles, points, etc.) programs they once had.

Get smart about your credit: Utilize the resources available to keep track of your credit reports and scores: go to or the FICO® Forums, where thousands of people have weighed in on every imaginable credit question. You can also download the free iPhone app, answer a short series of questions and get your estimated FICO® score range.


  • Visit the FICO® Forums online community to ask questions, share experiences and get credit advice from people who have already learned what it takes to manage credit responsibly and achieve high FICO® scores.
  • The myFICO education center provides tips on managing different kinds of credit.


Have a helpful tip to share? Do you have feedback for us? Please visit us at or send us a tweet at @myfico.

myFICO is the consumer division of FICO. Since its introduction over 25 years ago, FICO® Scores have become a global standard for measuring credit risk in the banking, mortgage, credit card, auto and retail industries. 90 of the top 100 largest U.S. financial institutions use FICO Scores to make consumer credit decisions.

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