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A higher credit limit on your credit card can provide you with greater spending power and help manage your credit utilization, but how do you get one? Card issuers may automatically increase your credit limit, but you can also request one yourself.
When setting a credit limit, credit card issuers look at your credit scores, income and expenses. If you've managed your account well and your financial situation has improved since you got the card, your card issuer may be willing to increase your credit limit. You can request a credit limit increase online, by phone or simply by waiting for your card issuer to act. Here's how to set the wheels in motion.
How to Increase Your Credit Limit
Each card issuer has its own guidelines for granting credit increases. Generally speaking, you should be a cardholder for at least six months and should not have requested an increase in the past six months.
If you'd like to increase your credit limit, you have three primary ways to go about it:
Request an Increase Online or In-App
The most convenient way to request an increase is to use the card company's website or mobile app. If your card issuer accepts online (or in-app) requests, complete the form and submit your information.
Call Your Card Issuer
Alternatively, you can call the customer service number on the back of your card and request a credit line increase. Be prepared to explain why you're asking for more credit, and to provide information on your income and housing expenses (rent or mortgage). Your request may be approved on the spot, though some requests take up to 30 days to be approved or processed.
Update Your Income and Wait
Even when you don't actively request one, you may be offered a credit limit increase automatically if your card issuer reviews your income, credit and account history and decides to up your credit line. If your credit card issuer ever requests updated income information, it could be a sign that they're considering a credit limit increase.
Pros and Cons of Increasing Your Credit Limit
On balance, a higher credit limit has more pros than cons. Depending on your habits and your ability to control your spending when a higher credit limit is available, however, you may ultimately decide to keep your limit where it is.
Here are a few pros and cons to consider.
Pros of Asking for a Higher Credit Limit
- You can use your card for larger purchases without worrying as much about your credit. A higher credit limit could also help you maintain a healthy credit utilization, which is a key credit score ingredient that measures how your credit balances compare with your credit limit. If your credit limit is $1,000 and you want to buy a $500 television, the purchase could bring your credit utilization ratio up to 50% and potentially have a negative effect on your credit score. Increasing your credit line can also help you avoid a high credit utilization.
- You'll be better equipped to cover large expenses. Raising your credit limit makes your card more useful, both as a payment tool for making large purchases and as emergency backup when a surprise expense pops up.
Cons of Asking for a Higher Credit Limit
- You may be tempted to overspend. A higher credit limit enables you to run up a higher balance, which could be difficult to pay off. While a higher credit limit doesn't cause overspending, it does make it easier to do so.
- Too many credit inquiries can affect your credit. Hard credit inquiries, like the ones credit card issuers may run when you request a credit limit increase, can decrease your credit score. Although the effect is minor and temporary, it's a good idea to limit the number of hard inquiries to your credit. This is especially true if you'll soon be making a major credit decision, such as applying for a mortgage.
Generally speaking, credit card companies want to reward their most responsible cardholders with additional credit. If you've already shown that you can manage a credit line and make payments on time, you're a good candidate for an increase. And if you've recently increased your income or improved your credit, even better.
Card issuers look at a variety of factors when considering a credit limit increase. These include:
- Your credit score and report
- The number of new credit applications you've recently submitted, resulting in hard inquiries on your credit report
- Your employment status and income
- Your expenses, including housing costs and debt obligations
Some additional factors aren't under your control. For example, if your card issuer is looking to decrease the amount of credit it extends overall due to broad economic conditions, they may be less inclined to grant your request.
If your request for a credit limit increase is denied, find out why. The card issuer is required by law to send an adverse action letter explaining their reasons for declining your request. The letter should arrive within seven to 10 business days of the decision.
Do what you can to address concerns: Work on raising your credit score, pay down your existing debt or look for ways to increase your income. You can try applying for an increase again in another six months or a year if your situation has improved.
Alternatively, you might try applying for another card, possibly one with more forgiving requirements.
Although your card issuer may not have a required waiting period between requests, you may want to wait at least six months before asking for a credit limit increase again.
Consider your circumstances as well as your timing. If you've recently graduated from college, landed a new job or promotion, or raised your credit score, you have a stronger case for making a new request. Conversely, if you've recently lost your job, accumulated a lot of credit card debt or begun falling behind on your payments, the card issuer is unlikely to grant you an increase.
The Bottom Line
If you're thinking about requesting a credit limit increase, you might want to start by checking your credit report and score. If your credit score would benefit from a little lift, consider trying Experian Boost®ø to add on-time rent and utility payments to calculating your score.
If your request for a credit limit increase doesn't pan out—or isn't as generous as you hoped—keep trying. Focus on making your payments on time and paying down your existing debt. As your situation and your credit improve, you can always apply again.