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How to Increase Your Credit Card Limit Without Hurting Your Credit Score

  • The term “credit limit” is used to describe the maximum amount of charges you can make on a credit card.
  • Card issuers consider multiple factors when determining your initial credit limit, including your credit score, your income, your housing payment, and other factors.
  • Some credit card companies will increase your credit limit automatically, whereas others will only increase your limit if you ask.
  • When you ask a credit card company to increase the maximum amount you can borrow, they consider factors like your current credit utilization ratio and your credit history.

If you are angling for more open credit on your favorite credit card, you’re certainly not alone. After all, it’s fairly common to want access to more credit you can use for a large purchase or emergency expenses, or to want some extra available credit around “just in case.”

That said, there are downsides that come with having a higher credit limit you should know about, such as the potential for more debt and temporary damage to your credit score. Before you ask your card issuer for more credit, read on to learn how credit limits are established, potential pros and cons of asking for a higher limit, and steps you can take to get more credit when you need it.

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How are credit limits established?

Credit limits are set by credit card companies, but only after they consider the information you shared in your credit card application. While card issuers consider their approval requirements to be proprietary information, they typically look at data like your household income, your payment history, your credit score, and how much you pay for housing before making a decision.

While credit card companies are able to set their own rules regarding how much credit they’ll approve you for, they are beholden to various government regulations. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) points out that card issuers must consider your ability to repay as they set credit limits or seek to increase them.

“A card issuer must not open a credit card account for a consumer under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan, or increase any credit limit applicable to such account, unless the card issuer considers the consumer’s ability to make the required minimum periodic payments under the terms of the account based on the consumer’s income or assets and the consumer’s current obligations,” writes the CFPB.

Benefits and drawbacks of a higher credit limit

The decision to ask for a higher average credit limit is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly, mostly because there are serious risks that come into play when you get the chance to borrow more money. That said, there are situations where the advantages of having more credit outweigh any potential downsides.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of requesting a higher pre-set spending limit?

Credit limit increase advantages:
  • A credit line increase can help you pay for items you desperately need
  • Having more available credit can lower your credit utilization, thus boosting your credit score
  • Having access to more credit can be helpful in emergencies
Credit limit increase disadvantages:
  • Accessing more available credit makes it easier to rack up long-term debt
  • Asking your lender for a credit limit increase can result in a hard credit inquiry, which can temporary ding your credit score
  • You’ll miss out on the benefits of applying for a new credit card instead

How to get your credit limit increased

Does requesting a credit increase hurt your credit score?

Requesting a credit increase does typically not hurt your credit score. Usually, a credit increase is a soft pull which has no effect on your credit score. In fact, requesting a credit increase could potentially help improve your credit score as it can help reduce your credit utilization ratio.

That said, if you plan to ask your credit issuer for a higher credit limit, there are a few key details to keep in mind.

When you request an increase, you will want to check if your credit card company issues a hard inquiry with the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Having a new hard inquiry on your credit report is not bad, but it will likely ding your score in the “new credit” category. However, any negative impact to your credit score will be temporary. Some companies may only issue a soft pull on your report which should have no impact at all.

The real danger of requesting a credit card limit increase depends more on your habits as a user – if you utilize all the new credit afforded to you. Credit card companies get worried when borrowers use too much of their available credit, and it’s typically recommended to keep your credit utilization rate at 30% or less as a result.

Also note that how much credit you use in relation to your credit limit is the second most important factor that makes up your FICO score. If you get a credit line increase and max out your balance, you will see damage to your credit score that could take months — or even years — to repair.

Boosting your credit card limit: What to avoid

Your creditor may be more than willing to increase your credit card limit, but that doesn’t mean this is always a good idea. The reality is, having more available credit makes it considerably easier to rack up a higher credit card balance. If you wind up racking up more debt or maxing your balance out, you will inevitably pay more credit card interest and you could wind up in a cycle of debt that’s very difficult to escape.

For the most part, asking for more credit makes the most sense when you don’t even need it. If you want a higher limit so you can immediately rack up a higher balance, you should probably rethink your plans.

Am I eligible for a credit limit increase? How to find out

There’s only one way to find out if you’re eligible for a higher credit limit — asking your credit card company. You can call your card issuer on the phone or request a higher credit limit via online banking, and you’re sure to find out an answer either way.

However, you’re much more likely to qualify for more credit if any of the following situations are true:

If you have a relatively short credit history or you already have a lot of debt, you are likely to be denied a credit line increase. The same is true if you have made late payments on your credit card within the last few years that can result in a charge-off.

Your credit line increase is accepted: What comes next?

If you asked for more credit and your request was approved, you should make sure you have a plan to use credit responsibly. For example, only rack up more charges on your card if you absolutely cannot avoid it, and try to keep your utilization rate as low as you possibly can. Also make sure you keep your credit card payments up-to-date at all times. After all, your payment history has the most impact on your FICO score.

Most importantly, don’t let your new, higher credit limit lead you into a lifetime of soul-crushing credit card debt. A higher credit limit can be a blessing or a curse, and it all depends on how you use it.

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FAQ: How to increase your credit limit

Is it easy to get a credit limit increase?

How easy it is for a cardholder to get a credit limit increase depends on their history of repayment, their income, and the way their card issuer handles these requests. That said, individuals have a better chance at a higher credit limit if they have a long history of responsible credit use and a higher income than they did when they first applied.

Is it worth it to increase your credit limit?

Increasing your credit limit can be worth it if you want to lower your credit utilization ratio or you need access to more credit for emergencies.

What are the most common reasons a request for a credit line increase is denied?

A common reason for requesting a higher spending limit is having emergency expenses. In the meantime, someone interested in lowering their credit utilization rate without paying off debt can also achieve this goal by requesting a higher spending limit.

Consumers may also request more spending power before they buy something expensive, or if they spend a lot each month and want to make sure they don’t make over-limit purchases.

Who do I ask about getting a credit limit increase?

Call the toll-free number on the back of your credit card and ask to speak with a customer service representative. They may be able to assist with your request on their own, but they may also transfer you to another department.

Holly D. Johnson
Holly D. Johnson Finance Expert

Holly D. Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who covers topics like insurance, investing, credit and family finance. As a leading voice in the travel and loyalty space, Johnson has traveled with her family to more than 50 countries over the last decade.

The author has also written extensively on the power of household budgeting, and she even co-authored a book on the topic. Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love was originally published in 2017, and it teaches families how to use zero-sum budgeting to reach their financial goals. She is also the co-owner and founder of the family finance and travel website, ClubThrifty.com.

Johnson’s 10+ years of writing have focused on helping families make important financial decisions at each stage of their lives. The author also applies the financial principles she teaches to her own life, and she is currently on track to retire in her late 40’s with her partner. She currently lives in Central Indiana with her husband and children, and she is a regular contributor for Bankrate, CNN, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report Travel and many other notable publications.

* Opinions expressed here are those of the LA Times Compare Cards Team and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser or entities included within this content. See our editorial policy for more details.

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