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Sometimes your credit card issuer will automatically increase your credit limit. If that doesn’t happen, you can request a higher credit limit, but it may come with a hard inquiry. See details and instructions on how to request a limit increase from major issuers.
Ever heard of a credit limit?
Also known as a credit line, it’s the maximum amount you can spend before you need to pay off some of your credit card’s balance. It can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the card and user.
Your credit limits matter more than you think — not only because they affect how much you can spend, but more importantly, because they affect your credit scores.
Here’s how increasing your credit limit could improve your credit, plus strategies for getting it done no matter the credit card company.
When lenders consider your creditworthiness, they look at one or more of your credit reports and scores from the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Your credit limits can play a big role in your credit scores.
As long as you’re paying all your bills on time, the next biggest component in credit scores is your credit utilization ratio, which is the percentage of available credit that you use. Lower credit utilization is generally better for credit scores.
To clarify how that works in real life, let’s look at the following scenarios:
How can Harry catch up? In addition to paying down his bill, he can either apply for a new credit card, or he can request an increased credit line with his current credit card.
In this article, we’ll go over both ways and further explore the second approach. We like this strategy because it allows you to continue spending and paying the same amount each month while also lowering your utilization, and hopefully improving your credit scores.
Before diving in, we want to share a few caveats:
And, if you haven’t yet established credit history, none of this really matters. Start by building good credit scores from the ground up.
Ready to increase your credit limit? There are two basic strategies: a slow way and a fast way. We’ll explain both below.
Many credit card companies increase your credit limit automatically — without you having to lift a finger.
If you demonstrate that you’re a responsible credit card user, and use the card enough to warrant a higher credit limit, you could get a higher credit line as frequently as every six or 12 months.
You can increase your odds of getting an automatic credit limit increase by:
Luckily, automatic increases won’t generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, as you must agree to those beforehand.
Don’t want to wait? Then here’s something you might not know: You can actually contact your credit card issuer to request a higher credit line.
Making a request runs the gamut from super simple to a little bit of legwork: Bank of America, for example, includes a request link in your online account, whereas Chase requires you to call customer service.
(For instructions on requesting increases with specific credit card companies, see the list below.)
Before taking this step, however, note that a credit card limit increase request often results in a hard inquiry on your credit reports. Since the issuer is considering you for a larger line of credit, the process is similar to applying for a credit card.
Although a hard inquiry can slightly lower your credit scores, the negative effect is eventually outweighed by the benefits of a higher credit limit. (Remember that credit utilization ratio we discussed earlier…?) Hard inquiries will only affect your FICO credit scores for one year. And, after two years, the hard inquiries will disappear from your credit reports, too.
When you submit a credit limit increase request, your issuer might ask for your annual income or monthly housing payment — information it’ll use to evaluate your risk as a borrower.
Then, your issuer will make one of three decisions:
In the case of a denial, you’ll usually have to wait a while before trying again. In the meantime, make sure you keep your payment history spotless, and continue to use the card. If you really want to improve your credit utilization ratio, you can also try applying for a new card.
When you’re ready to request a credit limit increase, your online account should be your first stop.
Depending on your card issuer and request, you could be approved or denied immediately. For larger increases, it could take several days to process your request, after which your issuer will notify you through an online message or mailed letter.
If you can’t request an increase online — or would prefer to do it by phone — prepare to share the following information with the representative:
Most importantly, you may need to outline why you deserve a high limit. (The fact you take your grandma to dinner every week is nice — but probably won’t work in this situation.)
Qualifying reasons could include a history of on-time payments, frequent use of the card, an improved credit score, an increase in income or plans to make a balance transfer to the account.
When you’ve got all that together, it’s time to make the call.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how much you should request.
One thing to consider is that the representative may be able to increase your credit limit a small amount based only on your account history — but larger increases will probably require a hard inquiry on your credit report.
If you’re comfortable with that, you might want to start by requesting a credit limit that’s twice your current amount. If you’re denied instead of receiving a counteroffer, you may have requested too much for that particular credit card company and current credit level. Next time, try requesting a lower amount.
You should also think about your personal spending habits: What can you handle responsibly?
If you often maintain a credit card balance, then you might not want to request a credit limit increase at all, and should instead focus on paying your bill in full each month. If an increased credit line is going to lead to increased charges — and higher interest and minimum payments — then it’s certainly not worth it.
Great question! But, unfortunately, this is another one of those “it depends” situations. (Womp womp.)
The more credit limit requests you make, the more hard inquiries end up on your credit reports. If you have a lot of cards, these inquiries could bring your credit scores down in the short term. They could also prevent you from opening new cards, as some issuers deny applicants who’ve had more than a certain number of inquiries in the past two years.
That being said, if you successfully negotiate higher limits on several cards, your credit utilization ratio will go down — and your score will go up. And those hard inquiries will fall off your credit reports after two years. If you have a few well-used cards with low limits, this approach might be a good start.
The alternative tactic is to request increases for your cards one at a time, maybe doing so once every few months.
That way, you’ll build your credit limits over time and space out the hard inquiries. Your credit limits will increase more slowly than with the first method, but the immediate negative impact on your credit scores will be less severe.
The bottom line: You’ll have to evaluate the pros and cons, and do whatever works best for your financial situation.
If you get denied for a credit limit increase, don’t give up: Another strategy is to apply for a new credit card from the same issuer and then transfer a portion of your new credit line to your other card.
To transfer your new credit line to the original card, you’ll need to contact customer service. Depending on the issuer, your credit limit transfer may be approved immediately, or you may need to wait days or weeks.
If you already have two credit cards from the same issuer, you can ask to move a portion of your credit line from one card to another.
Say you have two Chase cards: one with a $10,000 limit, and another with a $20,000 limit. You could ask to transfer $5,000 of your credit line from the second card to the first card, giving both cards a credit limit of $15,000. Since you’re not applying for more credit — and instead are just asking to move your current credit around — you may have better luck with this route.
Now that you have a broad overview of this strategy, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of each credit card issuer.
While we can’t predict the future, the following list will give you a good idea of what to expect when you request a credit limit increase from these companies. Note that in most cases, you should prepare for a hard inquiry.
We’ve also included instructions for increasing your credit limit online. If your experience differs from what we’ve written, please let us know!
Besides paying off debt, increasing your credit limit is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your credit score. If you don’t want to wait for your credit card issuer to make the first move, try the strategies above (and let us know how it goes!).
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