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No limits : exploring the psychology of unsolicited credit card limit increase offers

conference contribution
posted on 2008-01-01, 00:00 authored by Paul HarrisonPaul Harrison, C Bond
The issue of credit card debt has become an increasing concern in recent years. In Australia, for example, there is currently $42.5 billion worth of outstanding debt on credit cards, with $30 billion (over 70 per cent) bearing interest. Further, in 2001, Visa reported that 32 per cent of consumers had not paid their card off in the previous 12 months, which suggests that interest-bearing debt in Australia is held by approximately only 113 of credit card borrowers. An important element of credit card marketing is the use of psychological manipulations to encourage consumers to take-up credit. In this article, we examine the use of language and imagery in unsolicited credit card limit increase offers, and how these might influence consumers' decisions to increase their credit card limit. The analysis found that the use of terms that focused on the benefits of credit card use, such as "choice", "freedom", and "peace of mind" were used consistently to convince consumers to increase their credit card limit, whereas the use the of terms that could be considered more pragmatic and with direct reference to the nature of the product, such as "debt", "repayment" and "loan", were rarely used. Similarly, the use of colour, text changes, and images, were used which may have an influence over a consumer's ability to rationally consider whether the increase is appropriate for them. The paper concludes by recommending that government and representative bodies need to take into account the psychological manipulations used by credit card providers when developing consumer policy and codes of ethics.



Academy of Marketing. Conference (2008 : Aberdeen, Scotland)


Robert Gordon University


Aberdeen, Scotland

Place of publication

Aberdeen, Scotland

Start date


End date




Publication classification

E1 Full written paper - refereed

Title of proceedings

AM 2008 : Reflective marketing in a material world : Academy of Marketing Annual Conference 2008 Proceedings

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