Here's Exactly How To Increase Your Credit Limit
Increasing your credit card limit can boost your credit utilization and give you more purchasing power.
If you're asking for a limit increase, however, it's important to time your request correctly, and you should also make sure you're asking for the right reasons.
Here's exactly how to get a increase on your credit limit.
How to get a higher limit on your credit card
While a higher credit limit can help your credit score, asking for an increase at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons can actually damage your score.
If you're in a good spot financially—meaning you have enough income to cover your bills, and you pay everything on time—a credit limit increase could expand your purchasing options, as well as raise your credit score by improving your credit utilization.
In some cases, you have to ask your credit card company for an increase, but some credit card companies increase credit limits automatically.
You might also be able to get a higher limit simply by opening a new credit card.
Let's look at these three options one by one.
Request a credit limit increase
If you want a higher credit limit, getting it is often as straightforward as simply asking for it.
Depending on your credit card company, you can usually do this in one of two ways: online or over the phone.
Increasing your credit limit online
It's common for credit card companies to process requests for credit limit increases online, and you can usually find an option to do this by logging in to your account.
If you typically pay your bill online, log in and look for a button or section that lets you submit a request for a higher credit limit.
For example, if you have a Chase credit card, you would visit this page to request an increase.
When you ask for a credit limit increase online, the credit card company might require you to provide information about your income, including any recent changes in your salary.
Depending on your credit card company's policies, you might have to mail or email verification of your income before the company will process your request.
In other cases, the credit card company allows you to fill in an online form and simply state your current income.
Increasing your credit limit over the phone
Your credit card company might also offer an option to request a credit limit increase over the phone, and you can usually find a customer service number on the back of your card. Once you call the main line, listen for a prompt to request a credit limit increase.
Typically, choosing this option will connect you with a live representative.
Ask the rep what information, if any, you need to submit, and answer their questions honestly.
You should also take the opportunity to ask them if the increase carries any fees, as well as whether the credit card company reports increase requests as a hard or soft inquiry on your credit report.
Wait for an automatic credit increase
If you pay your credit card bill on time, and you use your card responsibly, you might receive a credit limit increase automatically.
Some credit card companies raise their customers' limits after a certain period of responsible use, so you can take a wait-and-see approach if you're not in a hurry to increase your limit.
Apply for a brand new card
Another option for increasing your overall credit limit is to apply for a new credit card altogether—this won't increase the limit on your original card, but it will help improve your credit utilization by giving you more available credit on the whole.
Before you apply for a new credit card, make sure the terms are favorable by checking the interest rate, along with any annual fees or other costs.
You should also be careful not to apply for too many cards at once, as this can result in multiple hard inquiries which can hurt your credit score (we'll get into this in more detail below).
Why your credit limit matters
When you pay your credit card bill on time and manage your credit use responsibly, it shows potential creditors that you're a low-risk borrower.
One of the ways creditors assess your risk is by looking at your credit utilization—the amount of your available credit compared to how much you're actually using.
For example, if you're close to maxing out a credit card or two, this can signal creditors that you can't manage your financial obligations. As a result, they might turn you down for new credit, or they could require you to pay a higher interest rate.
Because your credit utilization accounts for 30 percent of your credit score, it's a significant factor in determining whether your score is high or low. Generally, you don't want your credit utilization to get above 30 percent.
For example, if you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit, you should aim to keep your balance below $3,000. You should stick to this 30 percent rule for each credit card, and for your credit use overall.This is why increasing your credit limit is one way to improve your credit utilization. By getting more available credit, you can decrease your overall credit use.
Why you might want a credit limit increase
There are a few reasons why you might want a credit limit increase.
For one, credit gives you buying power, which can help you finance larger purchases you might not otherwise be able to afford up front.
Secondly, as we stated above, a higher credit limit can also improve your credit score by boosting your credit utilization, which you can calculate by dividing your credit limit by how much you owe.
For example, if you have $30,000 in total available credit, and your total credit card debt is $4,700, divide $4,700 by $30,000 to get 0.15.
Then, multiply 0.15 by 100.
This gives you 15 percent, which is well below the desired 30 percent credit utilization threshold.
Know how much more credit you need
Here's a tip for when you ask for a higher credit limit: go in with a specific figure in mind.
There are no definite rules for what constitutes a "good" increase to ask for, but most people keep it somewhere between 10 and 25 percent.
If you ask for anything higher, your credit card company might worry that you're desperate for additional funds. Asking for a significant increase could raise a red flag and cause your credit card company to deny your request.
You should also avoid asking your credit card company's representative how much they think you should request, as company policy probably prohibits them from giving financial advice of any kind.
Beyond that, asking their opinion makes it sound like you don't have a good handle on your financial situation.
Check your credit score before you ask
Be sure to also check your credit score before you ask for a credit limit increase.
The reasoning here is that credit limit requests can sometimes count as a hard inquiry on your credit report, and if you accumulate too many hard inquiries, they can lower your credit score.
If your score is already lower than you would like, it might be wise to hold off on your request for a bit.
You can check your credit score for free by ordering your credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
Under federal law, you're entitled to one free credit report from all three major credit bureaus once every 12 months.
The right time to ask for a credit limit increase
When it comes to requesting a credit limit increase, timing is important.
There are a few different scenarios in which it makes sense to ask for an increase in your spending limit, and a few when it doesn't make sense.
Also, be careful about making too many new credit requests at once.
If you have several credit cards, you might be tempted to ask for credit limit increases on all of them and then see if one gets approved.
But this strategy can backfire, as too many inquiries can hurt your credit score.
Beware of credit limit increase fees
Keep in mind that some credit limit increases come with a price—in the form of fees.
Credit card companies vary, but some charge a flat fee every time you make a request, while others charge a fee upon approval. This fee might be a set amount, or it could be a percentage of the increase you're asking for.
In many cases, you'll see fees like this if you have a credit card for people with bad credit. In that situation, it's probably better to transition to a card with better terms rather than try to increase the limit on your existing card.
However you approach this, make sure you speak to your credit card company and get clarification about fees before you move forward with your request for a higher limit.
How a credit increase impacts your credit
Asking for a credit limit increase can impact your credit in a good way or a bad way, depending on your circumstances.
On the good side, more available credit can lower your credit utilization.
Because your credit utilization accounts for 30 percent of your credit score, a lower credit utilization can make your score go up—this can have something of a snowball effect, as a higher credit score can make it easier for you to get approved for higher credit limits.
But asking for a credit limit increase can hurt your credit score if you ask at the wrong time, or your credit isn't in the right shape when you make your request.
Some credit card companies report credit limit increase requests as hard inquiries, and these can damage your score.
In some cases, credit card companies will report a credit limit increase request as a soft inquiry as long as you keep your request under a certain amount. If you're concerned about racking up hard inquiries, it's worth asking if lowering your request amount will help.
Asking for a credit limit increase is easy, but there's definitely a right (and wrong) time to do it.
Before you make your request, be certain you're doing it for the right reasons, and that your credit score is in good shape.
About the Author
Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.