How to Increase Credit Limit (It’s Easier Than You Think!)

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated Aug 14, 2018

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.

Why Your Credit Limit Matters

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:

  • Harry has one credit card with a $5,000 limit. His balance is $2,500 — and therefore his credit utilization ratio is 50 percent.
  • Meghan has two credit cards, each with a $5,000 limit, for a total of $10,000. Her balances also total $2,500 — but because she has a higher credit line, her utilization ratio is only 25 percent.

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.

A Few Credit Considerations

Before diving in, we want to share a few caveats:

  • Credit card debt is never worth it: If you don’t think you’ll be responsible with your new credit — and hopefully pay it off in full each month — then don’t try to get a higher limit. (Seriously, those Coachella tickets can wait.)
  • Only apply for a credit limit increase when it makes sense: Good times to try are after getting a raise, since lenders consider your income.
  • Try a cash-back card: If you just want to improve your credit utilization ratio, you could apply for a new card (with a signup bonus!) instead. Here are some of the best credit cards for earning cash back.
  • You may only get so much credit: Each credit card issuer may only be willing to extend a certain amount of credit to you, across all your accounts. So a credit limit increase on one card could take away your ability to increase your limit on other accounts, or open new accounts. This is why transferring a credit limit from one card to another might make sense.

And, if you haven’t yet established credit history, none of this really matters. Start by building your scores from the ground up.

Confused about all the numbers on your credit card bill, like your available credit, minimum due, and statement balance? Read our guide to paying credit card bills to become an expert.

How to Increase Your Credit Limit

Ready to increase your credit limit? There are two basic strategies: a slow way and a fast way. We’ll explain both below.

Wait for a credit limit increase

Method 1: Wait for Automatic Credit Limit Increases

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:

  • Building a positive payment history; never making late payments or causing payments to be returned.
  • Using the card frequently, which generates swipe fees for the bank. If you don’t use the card often, you likely won’t be offered a credit limit increase.

Luckily, automatic increases won’t generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, as you must agree to those beforehand.

Request an increase online

Method 2: Request a Credit Limit Increase

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 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.

Are you looking for a credit limit increase to help lower your total credit utilization? If so, consider opening a new credit card instead. This will give you more available credit, and you can also take advantage of any introductory bonuses offered by the card.

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:

  • Agree to your increase request
  • Counteroffer with a lesser increase
  • Deny your credit limit increase

In the case of a denial, you’ll 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.

The result of a successful credit limit increase request

The result of a successful credit limit increase request

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CREDIT LIMIT ONLINE

When you’re ready to request a credit limit increase, your online account should be your first stop.

  1. Log in to your credit card account
  2. Find the “Credit Limit Increase Request” link or section (see the list below for issuer-specific details)
  3. Fill in all of the requested information

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.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CREDIT LIMIT OVER THE PHONE

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:

  • Address and Social Security Number
  • Current employment status
  • Total monthly and annual gross income
  • Monthly mortgage or rental payments
  • Amount of requested credit limit increase

Most importantly, you’ll need to outline why you deserve a new credit line. (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.

  1. Dial the number on the back of your credit card, or use our listing of “backdoor” card issuer phone numbers.
  2. Tell the customer service representative you’d like to request a credit limit increase. You may be transferred to a different representative in a credit risk department.
  3. Request your increase in a courteous manner — remember that credit card issuers aren’t obligated to say yes.
  4. The issuer may accept, counter or deny your request immediately, or say you’ll need to wait for an online notification or letter.

HOW LARGE OF A CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE SHOULD I REQUEST?

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 balance on your card, 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.

SHOULD I REQUEST A CREDIT INCREASE ON MY CREDIT CARDS ONE AT A TIME OR ALL AT ONCE?

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.

TRANSFERRING YOUR CREDIT LIMIT

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.

How to Increase Credit Limit With Specific Issuers

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!

American Express

  • Amex sometimes uses a hard inquiry.
  • You must wait 60 days after opening an account to request an increase.
  • You’ll either receive immediate approval, or a message saying a decision will arrive by mail in seven to 10 days. (The latter usually means they’re reviewing your request manually.)
  • You must wait 180 days after being approved for a credit limit increase before requesting another.

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in
  2. Click “Account Services” in the top navigation bar
  3. Click the link to “Increase Your Credit Limit”
  4. Enter your desired credit limit and annual income
Requesting a credit line increase online with Amex

Requesting a credit line increase online with Amex

Bank of America

  • Will typically do a hard pull on your credit before making a decision. For small increases (under about $2,000), it may only be a soft inquiry.
  • In some cases, you must be an account holder for at least six to 12 months before you can request a credit limit increase.
  • Although you can usually make your request online, you’ll need to call customer service if you don’t see the option in your account.

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. In the Card Details section near the top, look for “Request a credit line increase.” If you don’t see it, click the “Information & Services” tab
  3. Click the link for “Credit line increase” towards the left side of the page
  4. Enter your total credit line requested and personal and financial information
Requesting a credit line increase online with Bank of America

Requesting a credit line increase online with Bank of America

Barclays

  • Like many other issuers, Barclays will periodically review your card account to determine whether or not it’s eligible for a credit limit increase.
  • You can request a credit limit increase or decrease online, and usually will receive a decision instantly.
  • You must wait four months after your credit limit is increased before requesting another increase, and you must wait six months after a limit decrease to request an increase.
  • If you’re not approved for the increase you request, Barclays may offer a smaller increase instead.

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Services” button in the navigation bar, and then select “Request credit line increase” from the pop-up menu
  3. On the next page, click the link to “Request a credit line increase”
  4. Enter your occupation, employer, length of employment, additional credit requested and total annual income
Requesting a credit line increase online with Barclays (1)

Requesting a credit line increase online with Barclays (1)

Requesting a credit line increase online with Barclays (2)

Requesting a credit line increase online with Barclays (2)

Capital One

  • Capital One allows credit limit increase requests at any time, though it generally declines requests from accounts that haven’t been open for at least six months.
  • In many cases, you’ll receive a letter with the decision in approximately 10 business days.
  • Some Capital One cards will automatically increase your credit limit after you make your first five payments on time, like the Capital One® Platinum Card (Review), QuicksilverOne® Card (Review) and Journey® Student Card (Review).

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. In the “Card Services” menu, click the “Request Credit Line Increase” link
  3. Enter your total annual income, employment status, monthly housing payment and monthly spend with credit cards

Chase

  • Usually employs a hard credit inquiry.
  • Though Chase used to allow customers to request credit limit increases online, you must now call the number on the back of your card.

Citi

  • If you request a credit limit increase through your online account, you’ll either be instantly approved or sent through to a manual review. (If you’re rejected, it may be the result of a recent increase.)
  • In a manual review, you may have to restate your income and list additional bank account information so Citi can check your balances.
  • If you agree to a manual review, it will require a hard credit pull.
  • You can also choose to wait, as Citi may provide automatic credit increases periodically.

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Account Management” link in the navigation bar near the top
  3. Click “Request a Credit Line Increase”
  4. Enter your total annual income and monthly housing payment
Requesting a credit line increase online with Citi (1)

Requesting a credit line increase online with Citi (1)

Requesting a credit line increase online with Citi (2)

Requesting a credit line increase online with Citi (2)

Discover

  • Unlike other card issuers, Discover only allows you to make a general request for an increase — not a specific amount.
  • It will start with a soft inquiry, and may approve you instantly. In that case, you’ll be given a maximum amount by which you can increase your limit (you can opt for a smaller increment, if you prefer).
  • If you’re not instantly approved, Discover will do a hard inquiry.
  • If you don’t want the hard inquiry, you can choose to cancel at this step and then just wait, as Discover typically increases credit limits over time for responsible users.

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in to your online account
  2. Hover over the “Manage” button in the top navigation bar, then click “Credit Line Increase”
  3. Enter your total annual gross income, total available assets, employer name and monthly housing payment
Requesting a credit line increase online with Discover

Requesting a credit line increase online with Discover

U.S. Bank

  • Performs a hard inquiry for credit limit increase requests.
  • You may be able to request an increase online. If you don’t find a link in your account, you’ll need to call customer support.
  • You can decrease your credit limit by calling customer support, too.

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in to your online account
  2. Select the “Customer Service” tab
  3. Click “Self Service”
  4. Click “Manage My Accounts”
  5. Click the link for “Credit Limit Increase”
  6. Enter your income, source of income and monthly housing payment

USAA

  • Conducts a hard inquiry.
  • You can request an increase online or over the phone.

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in to your online account
  2. Send a message to customer support through the online Message Center
  3. Include your income and desired credit limit

Walmart

  • Some people report getting automatic credit limit increases over time, while other people report having their credit limit decreased. Monitor your account carefully to see what happens to you.

ONLINE CREDIT LIMIT INCREASE REQUEST

  1. Log in to your online account
  2. Click the link to “Request a Credit Limit Increase”
  3. Enter the required information

Wells Fargo

  • You may be eligible for a credit limit increase after your account has been open for at least a year.
  • To request an increase, you must call customer service. You can try asking the representative to only do a soft inquiry. If they refuse, you can try hanging up (politely) and calling back.

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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