At a Glance
When you apply for a credit card, the issuer sets a credit limit, or a limit on how much you can charge to the card. Sometimes you may find yourself wanting to increase that limit, either because you want to improve your credit score, can spend more, or something else.
The good news is you can request a credit limit from your issuer, but there are only some situations in which it’s a good idea. Before requesting an increase, read to learn:
What is a credit limit?
A credit limit is the maximum amount of credit you can carry on your credit card at any given time. For example, if your credit limit is $10,000, you can only spend up to $10,000 on your card. To continue using your card, you’ll have to pay off some of the balance.
This limit is set by the credit card company when you apply for a new credit card and is based on aspects such as:
- Your credit history
- Your credit score
- Your income
- Your overall financial situation
The credit card company wants to give you enough of a limit that you can use your card frequently, but not too much that you’ll default or not be able to pay off the balance.
When can you request a credit limit increase?
Depending on your credit card company, you may be required to have your card for a certain amount of time (like 60 days) before you can request a credit limit increase. Some issuers may also have limits on how frequently you can request a limit increase (such as once every six months). To learn more, contact your credit card company and discuss your options.
Otherwise, you can request a credit limit increase any time you want.
Some companies sometimes automatically increase your limit if you’ve used it responsibly for a certain period or if you update your income.
How can you increase your credit limit?
If you think you want to request an increase to your credit limit, it’s best to talk to your credit company about whether you qualify and what their process is. However, we’ve outlined some of the basic steps below to get you started.
1. Decide if you really need an increase
Assess your current financial situation. While a higher credit limit may lower your credit utilization rate, which can help increase your credit score, it can also lead to overspending (which can lead to credit card debt).
Calculate your current credit utilization rate by dividing your total credit card balances by your total credit card limits. Experts recommend keeping the ratio below 30%, but the lower, the better. Having a higher credit limit on one (or multiple) can help get your ratio below 30%.
But recognize if you ask for an increase, you should have a plan for spending responsibly. Don’t ask for an increase just for an impulse purchase. Instead, carefully consider your spending and why/how an increase would help you. You should try to pay off your card in full each month, so if the greater ability to spend can impact this, you may not want to request the increase.
2. Know your credit history
If the credit card company is going to give you access to more money, they want to ensure you’re a responsible, low-risk borrower. To learn this, they will check your credit score. Knowing your credit history and score before applying for a limit can help you determine if you’ll even be approved for an increase, or if you should focus on improving your score first.
Additionally, when you request the increase, it may trigger a hard inquiry to determine your eligibility. This will decrease your score by a few points and will remain on your credit reports for two years. If you don’t have much of an established credit history, this hard inquiry can have more of an impact than the credit increase.
3. Gather all required documents and information
You’ll need to provide a variety of information in your request for an increase such as your current income, employment status, how much you pay for housing each month, and others. Depending on your card issuer, they may need some documentation to back up the information in your request. Having this information prepared ahead of time can help make your request go smoother.
Also note that while a few issuers allow you to request a credit limit increase online, in most cases you’ll be required to call. Calling can also allow you to ask questions, get an increase without a hard inquiry, or plead your case with more information.
4. Make your case
When making a request, please keep it simple. Having your information and documentation, as well as key talking points (like why you want an increase and what increase you’d like), ready beforehand can help with your request.
You should also prepare a list of questions before you call, such as how often you can make a credit limit increase request, whether the request will trigger a hard inquiry or how you can avoid that, or others.
Explain politely why you’re asking for an increase, and keep your temper under control if things aren’t going your way. You can always call again later. And if they decline your request, ask why so you can work on whatever you need to improve your chances of getting approved.
When is the right time to increase your credit limit?
You’re assigned an initial credit limit when you get your credit card, ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. Even though the issuer will likely increase your limit automatically over time with responsible borrowing, you may come across sometimes you’ll want to ask for an increase sooner, such as:
1. When you have good credit
A good credit score (670 to 739) or excellent credit score (740 and higher) signifies you’re a responsible, low-risk borrower who can manage your credit. It can also prove to an issuer that you can handle an increased limit. If your score improves into these categories, you may want to request a limit.
2. When you have a good payment record
Not only does your credit score signal you’re a responsible borrower, but so does your full credit history. And things like making payments on time can increase your credit score. In fact, payment history makes up 35% of your score, so it’s important to make your payments on time and pay off your credit cards in full as much as possible.
3. When you’ve recently gotten a raise
Your annual income will be listed in your credit card account. However, if you get a raise and update the income listed, it may result in an automatic credit line increase within a few months. Or you can make the request faster with your new income. Making more money means you’ll be able to afford more expenses and pay them off.
4. When your spending habits might change
If you get married, buy a house, have a baby, or have another major event in your life, this can change your spending habits significantly. Depending on the event, you may find yourself spending more or having higher expenses (such as having to furnish a new home or higher grocery bills for a bigger family). If this happens, you may want to consider requesting an increase so you can feel more confident using your card for these increased expenses.
When should you not look to increase your credit limit?
On the other hand, there are also times you should not request to increase your credit limit. Doing so in these situations will likely lead to a rejection of your request.
1. When you’ve taken a lower-paying job
Sometimes, you may be able to take a job that is lower-paying but may be better for you, more fulfilling, or otherwise a good move. However, this is not a good time to increase your limit because you don’t have as much cash coming in to be able to pay off a higher credit balance.
2. When your credit score is not good
If your credit score isn’t great, especially scores below 580, you’ll likely not get approved for more credit because you haven’t shown responsible management of credit in the recent past. If you don’t have a great score, you should take steps to improve it before requesting an increase.
Related: How to Improve Your Credit Score
3. When you’ve recently applied for new credit
If you’ve recently applied for a new credit card, loan, or other financial product, this can be a sign to issuers that you may be in financial distress. Issuers will be able to see you’ve applied for this credit due to the hard inquiries each application triggers, which can also decrease your credit score. Due to this, the issuer may feel you won’t be able to pay off a larger limit so they will deny your request.
4. When you are planning to travel
Traveling to another country increases your chances of credit card or identity fraud. Additionally, many people spend more frivolously while traveling than they would normally. Increasing your limit right before you’ll be traveling can make it more tempting to spend more while you’re gone that you then must pay off when you get back. Additionally, if your information was stolen, you’re giving thieves access to even more of your money. It’s recommended to request a limit after you get back.
5. When you’ve maxed out your card
If you’re already approaching your credit limit on your card and carrying a balance from month to month, you shouldn’t ask for more money to spend. Focus on paying off your current debt. Additionally, the issuer may deny your request for fear you won’t repay what you’ve already borrowed.
Does getting a credit limit increase affect your credit score?
Getting a credit limit increase will affect your credit score in a few ways:
- It can lower your credit utilization. This accounts for 30% of your credit score, which significantly impacts you. Increasing the amount of credit you have access to can lower your credit utilization and increase your score, especially if you continue to keep debt balances low.
- It triggers a hard credit inquiry. New credit accounts for 10% of your score, so when you open a new line of credit (which in some cases includes a credit limit increase request), your score may decrease by 5 to 10 points. This will remain on your credit report for two years.
It’s just important to remember that even though you technically have more money to spend, that doesn’t mean you should. Keep your spending in check and only charge what you can afford to pay off.
This depends on you and the reason you’re asking for an increase. For example, if you want an increase to lower your credit utilization, ask for an increase that will allow you to remain under 30%. If you want to avoid a hard credit inquiry, you may want to keep your increase amount low. Just make sure whatever you request is something you can afford to pay off.
Once you request an increase, you may receive a response virtually immediately, or you may have to wait up to 30 days.
If you have great credit, recently got a higher paying job, and/or have a good payment record and credit history, it may be easier to get a credit limit increase. On the other hand, if you have poor credit, have recently applied for other new credit, or have decreased your income, it may be more difficult.
Yes. Most issuers will automatically increase your limit after showing a record of responsible borrowing and spending. Or it may automatically increase if you update your annual income to be higher.