A credit limit, also known as a credit access line or credit line, is the maximum amount of dollars you can spend on your credit card before having to pay off some of the balance. Depending on the credit card and how financially stable you are, credit limits can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
Being smart about how you use your credit card — and paying your bill on time and in full each month — can help increase your credit limit and may improve your credit score. However, on the other hand, a higher credit limit can lead to overspending.
It's important to keep in mind the following considerations when it comes to how your credit limit affects your credit score, how to ask for an increase and questions to ask yourself before doing so.
Am I eligible for a credit limit increase?
There are a few key factors your credit card company will look at when considering your eligibility for a credit limit increase. They will want to know if:
- You make on-time payments
- You make more than the minimum monthly payments or pay off your balance in full
Other factors that creditors may consider include:
- Whether you recently had changes to your income
- Your credit score
- Whether you've ever maxed out your credit card
- Your credit utilization ratio
- How long you've had the card open for (some creditors have limitations, like requiring the card to have been open for six months or one year before you're eligible for an increase)
What to consider before requesting a credit limit increase
Being approved for an increased credit limit gives you more money at hand to spend on what you need, but it also comes with a larger responsibility. Here are a few key things to consider before you request an increased limit.
- When you request a credit limit increase, this may result in a hard inquiry on your credit report if the lender obtains a copy of your credit score. But in some cases, a request may result in a soft inquiry, depending on your credit card issuer.
- Ask yourself if you'll still be able to make payments on time and pay off your card in full, if you have a higher credit limit and spend more each month. If the answer is no, now may not be the best time for an increase.
- Also, consider your credit utilization ratio. If you have a higher credit limit and spend more each month, your utilization ratio could be higher, which could negatively affect your credit score.
How to request a credit limit increase
Depending on your credit card issuer, you have a few options for requesting a higher credit limit.
- Make a request online. Many credit issuers allow cardmembers to request a credit limit increase online through their website or user portal. Sign in to your account and submit a request. In some cases, you may have to update your information, such as your annual income.
- Call your credit card company. The back of your card has a customer service number you can call and learn if you're eligible for an increased limit. You may have to answer some questions regarding your request and financial situation, but if you meet the requirements they can put in a request for you. Once submitted, you may receive a decision immediately, or you may have to wait up to 30 days before receiving an answer.
Sometimes, your credit card issuer may automatically increase your credit limit based on certain factors such as having the card open for a long period of time and making payments on time. If this happens, they may send you communication that your limit has increased, so be sure to monitor for these notifications. With some issuers, this may happen even every six or 12 months.
Tips for requesting a credit limit increase
Card issuers are not obligated to approve your request, so here are a few tips to help the request process go smoother and increase your chances of approval.
- When you request a credit limit increase, it's important to have the information you'll need ready. Typically, you'll need to provide your total annual income, current employment status and monthly mortgage or rent payment. You may need to also provide the amount of the credit limit increase you're requesting.
- Be prepared to defend your request for a higher limit. The representative may ask why you need a credit limit increase and why they should grant your request. You can defend your case with information such as your history of on-time payments, frequent and responsible use of the card, a high credit score, increase of income and more.
- Request the credit limit increase at a good time. Wait until you get a raise or your annual income increases. Also, be sure you have good credit and a good track record of paying on time when applying.
Consider whether you want to request a credit limit increase on your existing card. If you decide it's the right time to increase your limit, call the phone number on the back of your credit card.