Why and How to Get a Credit Limit Increase
Most of us have been there, especially as credit card newbies. We open a new account, only to be offered a paltry limit that does little for our spending options and even less for our credit score. But luckily, this low limit won’t last forever. Whether you request a credit increase or are given one automatically, responsibly managing your account will often lead to a higher limit in the near future.
So, how can you go about getting an increase sooner, rather than later? And why do you want to in the first place?
- Just Be Patient
The easiest way to get yourself a higher credit limit is to simply wait. Over time, as you manage your account wisely and make payments on time, you’ll often be offered a higher limit. Actually, you’ll typically just be notified that the issuer has decided to raise your limit (congratulations!), without you needing to solicit it out of them.
The amount of time that it takes an issuer to raise your limit – and the actual amount of the increase – truly varies. Some companies will extend you a few hundred dollars more, while others (like American Express) have a reputation for doubling or tripling your limit. I’ve personally had credit limits bumped only two months after getting a new card, but have also had to beg and please another company to raise my limit after years of sitting stagnant.
- Ask for What You Want
Speaking off begging and pleading: one way to get your credit limit increased is to flat-out ask for it. If you’ve been a loyal cardholder for some time, have a positive account history, and your credit is in good shape, simply call up your issuer and request a credit increase.
Sometimes, your issuer will grant your request on the spot. Other times, they will want to run a soft inquiry on your credit (to make sure you aren’t maxed out on your other cards, delinquent with debts, etc.). Rarely – though it does happen – the issuer will run a hard inquiry on your credit following your request. I’ve had this happen in the past, believing that a soft inquiry would be run instead, and was disappointed to find it show up on my credit report. However, if you’re dead-set on a limit increase, an inquiry might not be a concern. If you’re turned down on your request, you can typically ask again in about 90 days, depending on the issuer. However, you might want to take that time to work on your credit and improve the things that resulted in the denial in the first place.
- Clean Up Your Credit Score
Sometimes, you’re denied a credit limit increase because it’s already pretty high or you don’t have a long enough history with the company. Other times, it might be because of your credit score. If that’s the case, you should spend some time cleaning up your credit before requesting a limit increase, to ensure an approval.
This might mean paying off balances on other revolving accounts, to lower your total debt. If you have a maxed out credit card, see about doing a balance transfer to spread the balance out a bit, which will lower your average utilization.
If you have inquiries, late payments, or collections which are due to fall off your report soon, you could also wait until that happens to ask for a limit increase. The better your credit, the higher the likelihood of a “yes.”
-Why Does Your Limit Matter?
If you don’t carry a balance from month-to-month or don’t come close to your limit each month, you may be perfectly content to keep your limit where it’s at. After all, why mess with a good thing?
Well, there are actually a few great reasons to still think about asking for a limit increase, even if you don’t feel like you actually “need” it right now. And most of them will help you to improve your credit score right off the bat.
First off, having a higher credit limit gives you options. If you need to make a larger purchase, have an emergency, or want added flexibility with your credit card spending, it’s there. It doesn’t actually hurt you to have a higher limit than you need at-present (with few exceptions), but having a safety net can be great. Secondly, the higher your credit limit is compared to any debt balances you carry, the better your credit. This is because a higher limit (that’s unused) will lower your overall credit utilization. Considering that your utilization makes up about 30% of your total FICO score, this can have serious impacts.
Lastly, a higher credit limit can be lucrative, depending on your monthly spending habits. For example, if you carry a cash-back or travel rewards credit card – and can responsibly manage your spending – you can earn more back on everyday purchases. If you are currently only using a credit card for certain expenses or benefits, you could be leaving a lot of free money on the table.
By raising your credit limit, you could use a rewards card for all of your monthly purchases. As long as you pay off the balance in full each billing cycle, this can be an excellent way to rack up cash back on the things you already buy.
How much credit an issuer chooses to extend to you will depend on many factors. Your own credit report, your history with the account, and even your income can play a role. By simply managing your account responsibly and having some patience, though, you can boost your limit (and your credit score!) over time.
It’s truly different for everyone, with each card product.