What is a Credit Limit, and Why is it Important?
A credit card’s credit limit is the maximum amount you can spend before you need to pay off some of the balance. Some credit cards start with small limits of just few hundred dollars. Others come with larger limits of tens of thousands of dollars.
Your credit limits are important because the percentage of your credit limit you use (called utilization) is a major factor in credit scores. Credit scoring models generally like to see lower utilization. In other words, maxing out your credit cards is very bad for your credit scores. By increasing your credit limits, you can continue to spend and pay off the same amount each month and lower your utilization.
My Bank Raised My Credit Limit, Is That Bad For My Credit?
When your issuer raises your credit limit, that’s actually a good sign. It means the lender thinks you’re less risky and that you can handle a larger credit limit.
As long as you don’t use a high percentage of your credit limit, the extra available credit can keep your utilization low, which is a positive signal in credit scoring models.
Also, when your credit card issuer initiates a credit limit increase you will not get a hard inquiry on your credit reports.
Two Ways to Increase Your Credit Limits
There are two basic ways to increase your credit limits on credit cards: a fast way and a slow way.
- The fast way is to simply request an increase from your credit card issuer, either online or by phone.
- The slow way is to wait. Some credit card issuers will give you automatic credit limit increases as you demonstrate that you can use the card responsibly by paying your bills on time, for example.
Method 1: Request a Credit Limit Increase
Depending on your card issuer and the amount of the increase you request, a credit limit increase request may result in a hard inquiry on your credit reports. This is because the issuer is considering you for a larger line of credit, so the process is similar to when you first applied for a credit card.
A hard inquiry can have a slight negative effect on your credit scores. However, the effect is temporary and small enough that you can generally ignore this when compared to the benefits of having higher credit limits.
Your issuer may also ask for updates to information you gave them when you applied for the card in the first place, like your annual income or monthly housing payment. This is normal, because the credit card companies use this information to evaluate how risky you are as a customer. Since this information is not on your credit reports, they need to get it directly from you and may request proof.
There are three possible results of a credit limit increase request. You will either:
- get the increase you asked for
- get a counter-offer by the issuer of an increase for a lesser amount
- be denied for the increase
The quickest and easiest way to request a credit limit increase is usually online, through your credit card account on the issuer’s website.
It may be a prominent link or you may need to do a bit of digging to find it, depending on your card issuer. Bank of America, for example, makes it quite easy with a link on your account profile, while Chase requires you to call the phone number on the back of your card instead of requesting online.
See the list of credit card issuers below for more information on how each one lets you request a credit limit increase and how they handle it afterward.
How to Increase Your Credit Limit Online
- Login to your credit card account on your issuer’s website
- Find the “Credit Limit Increase Request” link or section; see the list below for issuer-specific details
- Proceed according to the issuer’s instructions, filling in all requested information
- Wait to hear back from the issuer. You may receive the increase or be denied immediately, while in other cases (usually for larger increases) it can take at least several days to process the request. Depending on the issuer, your personal preferences, and the size of the increase, you may receive either an online notification or a letter.
How to Increase Your Credit Limit over the Phone
Alternatively, if you can’t request an increase online or would prefer to do it by phone, start by calling the customer service number found on the back of your credit card.
Usually, the customer service representatives you’ll speak to will be authorized to increase your credit limit a small amount based on your account history with the issuer. If you’d like a larger increase, you’re probably going to get a hard inquiry on your credit report since you’re requesting a significant additional line of credit.
Requesting a credit limit increase over the phone is much like the online request described above. On the phone, however, you’ll want to prepare some information beforehand. You may not end up needing all of it.
Have the following information ready:
- Personal identifying information
- Current employment status
- Total monthly and annual gross income
- Monthly mortgage or rental payments
- The amount you’d like to increase your credit limit
- Your justification for requesting the increase: a history of on-time payments, frequent usage of the card, better credit score than before, an increase in income, if you plan to make a balance transfer to the account, etc.
After you have that information ready, do the following:
- Call the number on the back of your credit card, or use our listing of “backdoor” card issuer phone numbers.
- Tell the customer service representative that you’d like to request a credit limit increase. You may be transferred to a different representative in a “credit risk” department.
- Be courteous when requesting your increase. There is no reason credit card issuers are obligated to increase your credit limits.
- The issuer may accept, counter, or deny your request immediately over the phone. In other cases, you’ll need to wait for an online notification or letter from your card issuer with the results.
How Large of a Credit Limit Increase Should I Request?
There’s no easy, exact answer to how much you should request. As discussed earlier, if you don’t get the amount requested you may either get denied or get a counteroffer for less. You might want to start by requesting a credit limit that’s twice your current credit limit. If you’re denied, instead of receiving a counteroffer, you may have requested too much for that particular issuer and your current credit level. Next time, you could try requesting a lower amount for the increase.
Should I Request a Credit Increase on My Credit Cards One at a Time or All at Once?
There are pros and cons of each approach. Since there’s no definite answer, it’s up to you to decide which is a better fit for you. You may also decide to change your approach depending on whether you’re approved or denied for limit increases.
If you request a credit limit increase on all your cards at once, and you have many cards, you may end up with quite a few hard credit inquiries at once. Lots of hard inquiries can bring down your credit scores in the short term, but that may be countered by the increase in credit scores you may get from decreased utilization now that you have more available credit. Also, too many inquiries could prevent you from opening new cards. Some issuers automatically deny applicants who have more than a certain number of inquiries in the past two years.
The advantage of the all-at-once approach is that you may end up with very high credit limits right away, and those hard inquiries will all fall off of your credit reports after two years. If you have a few cards with low limits that you use regularly, and you’ve never received a limit increase on those cards, this approach might be a good way to start.
Instead, you may want to space out credit limit increase requests across different cards. That way, you can build your credit limits over time and space out possible hard inquiries so they will fall off of your credit reports more uniformly after two years.
Transferring Your Credit Limit
If you have already been denied for a credit limit increase, you have another potential option. You can apply for a new credit card from the same issuer. Once you are approved, you may be able to transfer a portion of that new credit limit to the card you want to have a higher limit. Be sure to check with the card issuer beforehand to make sure that you’ll be able to do this.
If you have excellent credit there are very few reasons why an issuer wouldn’t approve you for a new card. Depending on the issuer, you may find out if the issuer approved your credit limit transfer immediately. Other times you may need to wait days or months for a decision.
Method 2: Wait for Automatic Credit Limit Increases
Some credit card issuers will increase your credit limit automatically if you show that you are a responsible card user and use the card enough to warrant a higher credit limit. Issuers tend to give out these automatic increases in intervals of about 6 or 12 months.
This long-term strategy will be always be working for you, and you can maximize the odds by:
- Don’t make late or returned payments
- Use the card fairly frequently (this generates swipe fees for the bank)
If you are a responsible credit user, but you don’t use a particular card, don’t expect to see automatic credit limit increases on that card. If the issuer doesn’t see a need for you to have a higher credit limit you might not be given one automatically.
How Issuers Handle Credit Limit Increase Requests
When you request a credit limit increase from your card issuer, some issuers will do a hard inquiry on your credit, while others will do a soft inquiry.
While we can’t guarantee 100% whether an issuer will do a hard or soft inquiry when you request a credit limit increase, we’ve put together this table based on our research to help you understand what might happen for different issuers. We’ve also included instructions for increasing your credit limit online.
If you experience something different from what we have here, or have information about how an issuer provides online credit limit increase requests, please contact us and let us know!
- Hard inquiry
- You will either receive approval almost immediately or receive a message saying that a decision will be delivered to you by mail in 7-10 days. The 7-10 option usually means there will be a manual review.
- It is important to note that American Express does not increase an accountholder’s credit limit during the first 60 days after the account is opened, or until at least six months after the last credit limit increase.
- Online Credit Limit Increase Request: Log in, and then click “Account Services” in the top navigation bar; then click “Credit Management” in the left-hand bar; then click “Increase Line of Credit.”
Bank of America
- You can request a credit limit increase online approximately every six months. Bank of America will typically do a hard pull on your account and then make the decision.
- Soft inquiry for small increases (under $2,000), or after other recent increases, or after heavy usage with the card
- In many cases, you must be an account holder for at least 6-12 months before you can request a credit limit increase.
- Online Credit Limit Increase Request: Log in and then click “Information & Services” in the mid-screen bar; then click “Credit line increase.”
- In many cases they will approve the increase immediately, though it could take a few days to process your request. If this happens, you will receive a letter in the mail with the decision in approximately ten days.
- Capital One allows credit limit increase requests at any time.
- Be sure to keep in mind that Capital One generally declines requests from accounts that have not been open for at least six months.
- Usually a hard inquiry
- Chase used to allow customers to request credit limit increases online, but now they require that you call the phone number on the back of your card if you want to request a credit limit increase.
- If you request a credit limit increase through your online account, you will either be instantly approved or you will have to ask for a manual review.
- In a manual review, you will have to restate your income and list additional bank account information so that they can check your balances. A hard credit pull is also required if you agree to a full review. However, if you decline the full review, nothing will happen.
- Citi usually provides a free credit increase about once every six months. In the rare case you are rejected for an increase, it is generally the result of a previous increase within the last six month period.
- Online Credit Limit Increase Request: Log in, then click the “Account Management” link in the navigation bar near the top; then click “Request a Credit Line Increase.”
- You can only make a general request for an increase, you can’t request a specific amount.
- You’ll need your total annual gross income, employer’s name, and monthly housing payment/rent.
- Discover will start with a soft inquiry, and you may be approved instantly. If you are, you’ll be given a maximum amount to increase your limit. You can choose an increase of a smaller amount if you’d like.
- Discover will do a hard inquiry on your credit if you’re not instantly approved, meaning that your account requires more review (you can choose to cancel at this step if you’d like). This process will take a bit longer, and you’ll be contacted soon with the result.
- Discover, like Citi, is known for automatically increasing your credit limit every 6 months if your credit card is used responsibly.
- Online Credit Limit Increase Request: Log in and then hover over the “Manage” button in the top navigation bar; then click “Credit Line Increase.”
- Hard inquiry
- Hard inquiry
- Most accounts receive a credit limit increase every 6 months without a hard inquiry
- Soft inquiry if you call and ask for an increase without a hard pull. If they say no, try calling a different representative later and trying again