How to Increase Your Credit Card Limit

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Requesting an increase to your credit card’s limit is an easy process that can be done over the phone or online. But you won’t always be approved, so it’s ideal to ask for a request when you have a mature account, your payment history is good, your credit score is high, and your income has increased. It’s also key to consider how a limit increase will affect your credit score, especially if you’re planning to apply for a major loan in the near future.

How to Request a Credit Limit Increase

You typically can request a limit increase by calling your issuer using the phone number on the back of your card or by submitting a request online after you log onto your account. You may be asked to provide your annual income (including personal, shared and optional income); employment status; monthly mortgage or rent payment; and the average amount you spend each month on your credit cards.

Have a specific amount in mind and a palatable reason for your request—such as a large purchase—when asking for an increase. Your issuer may pull your credit report to approve a larger limit, which is a hard inquiry that can hurt your credit score. In most cases, your issuer can approve or reject your request immediately. In a few cases, you may be asked for documentation, which will push back a decision by several days after submitting the paperwork.

When to Ask for an Increase to Your Credit Limit

Several factors determine the original limit your issuer offers: your credit score, income and existing limits on other credit cards. It’s generally a fixed formula that issuers won’t change when the card is first opened. If you don’t have a suitable limit, the best advice is to be patient. If you consistently make on-time payments, your issuer will automatically increase your limit between 15% and 20% after your account has been open between 12 and 18 months. Your issuer will automatically review your account every year and may increase your limit modestly.

If your credit card limit is still not as large as you’d like—even after automatic increases—then consider requesting a higher limit, especially when one or more of these conditions apply:

Your payment history is good. If you have a mature account and made on-time payments for a year, then you have a better chance of getting that limit increase. It helps, too, if your payments are significantly more than the minimum payment, to show you have the ability to manage larger obligations. Another trick is to make payments a few days before the due date to show your issuer that you’re a consistent, early payer.

Your credit score has risen. If you’ve been working to improve your credit history for the past six to 12 months—and you haven’t missed payments on any accounts in that time—then your credit score may be high enough to qualify for a bigger credit limit.

It's after you've received a raise. If your income has recently increased due to a raise or new job, then you may qualify for a larger credit limit. Federal law requires credit card issuers to make sure that you have the ability to pay your credit card; an increase in your limit is subject to this regulation. Your issuer may ask for proof of your new income—such as a paystub—before approving your increase.

Does Requesting a Credit Limit Increase Hurt Your Credit Score?

Issuers can give smaller increases without any additional steps, but for larger ones, your lender likely will request a copy of your credit file—also known as “a hard credit pull”—a move that will ding your credit score modestly—typically by 5 points or less. Requesting a limit increase is akin to changing the original terms that you qualified for when you received the card, and the lender will want to make sure you have the ability to manage the new limit. The hard inquiry will affect your credit score for 12 months, but will remain on your credit report for two years.

In the long run, though, your credit score will likely benefit from an increase to your credit limit as long as you keep your spending under control. That’s because a larger limit will increase your available credit and help lower your utilization rate, the percentage of your credit that you use. The lower the percentage, the better for your credit score.

For example, if you regularly charge $250 on a card with a $500 limit, then your utilization rate is 50%. But if your limit increases to $1,000, then your utilization rate on that card falls to 25%. It’s best to keep your utilization rate below 30% to boost your credit score. But if you charge more with your new, bigger limit, your credit score may not drop at all. You also have to pay off a larger balance.

Why You May Be Rejected for a Credit Limit Increase

There are plenty of reasons your issuer may reject your request for an increase on your credit card limit. If you were denied because of information in your credit report, the issuer will send an adverse action notice that includes which credit reporting agency was used and how to contact the agency. Otherwise, here are some common reasons why your credit limit increase may be denied.

A new card. Many issuers won’t consider a limit increase until after a card account has been open at least six months to a year.

A missed payment. Many issuers will decline an increase request if you have missed a payment on the card account or on other credit cards in the last 12 months. Ineligible card: Secured cards often aren’t eligible for a limit increase without increasing the security deposit that backs the card. Authorized users also can’t request an increase in limits on their own.

A recent limit change. If your credit limit was increased or decreased in the previous six to 12 months, some issuers may reject another change. Too-low payments: If you only make the minimum payment on your card, your issuer may take that as a sign that you don’t have the ability to manage a larger limit. Lower credit score: If your credit score took a hit since your credit card was opened, you may not qualify for an increase.

Lower income. If you lost your job or took a lower-paying job than when you applied for the card originally, you may not qualify for an increase. High balances or obligations: Many issuers will look at the balances on your other revolving accounts to determine your ability to pay back a card with a larger limit. If those balances are too high, they may reject your account.

Similarly, if you have too many large debt obligations—such as student loans, car payments and a mortgage—you may be denied a limit increase. Other reasons: Issuers will also reject an increase for inactive cards, cards reported as lost or stolen, or cards that have an internal fraud alert on the account. If your address is outside the U.S., your limit increase will likely be declined as well.

Janna is a former Senior Writer at ValuePenguin covering banking, credit cards and credit scores. She has spent more than a decade writing and reporting on personal finance, real estate and business, and has received three journalism awards for her work.

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