Can You Overdraft a Credit Card?

By Bob Haegele · June 13, 2022 · 6 minute read

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Can You Overdraft a Credit Card?

In most cases, it isn’t possible to overdraft a credit card. If you opt in to over-the-limit charges, it may be possible to exceed your credit card’s limit. However, “overdraft” usually refers to overdrawing a bank account, not a credit card.

It’s more likely that your purchase will be denied rather than overdrawn. If you do go over the limit, you might get hit with additional fees, and your credit could suffer as a result.

What Does It Mean to Overdraft a Credit Card?

Each time you use your credit card, your balance increases, given how credit cards work. If you aren’t making payments against that balance, it will move closer and closer to your credit limit. Eventually, your balance could get high enough that you run up against that limit.

Usually, though, you won’t be able to go beyond your credit card spending limit. Instead, your card will be declined if you attempt to make a purchase that would put you over the limit. This is the result of the CARD Act of 2009.

Since the CARD Act, you can’t go over your card’s limit unless you specifically opt in to allow overages. In that case, it may be possible to go beyond your credit card’s limit.

What Happens If You Overdraft Your Credit Card

What happens when you try to overdraft your credit card depends on whether you have opted in to over-limit charges. If you haven’t, your card will likely be declined; otherwise, you could incur fees and a hit to your credit.

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Declined Transactions

By default, most credit cards today should not allow you to go over your credit limit. Instead, your card will probably be declined.

For example, imagine you have a credit limit of $5,000 with a current balance of $4,800. If you try to spend $250, in most cases it will not result in a $5,050 balance on your card. Because your limit is $5,000, your card will probably be declined when you attempt to complete the transaction for the $250 purchase.

Over-Limit Fees

Since the CARD Act of 2009, you can’t be charged over-limit fees unless you opt in to them. In that case, you will be charged an over-the-limit fee that is usually up to $35. However, the fee is limited to the amount you exceed your limit. For example, if you go $15 over your credit limit, the over-limit fee can’t be more than $15.

The CARD Act also says that banks must disclose over-limit fees in your credit card contract. If for some reason you have opted into over-limit fees, you should be able to opt out of these fees at any time.

Impact on Credit Score

If you go over the limit for your credit card, your credit score might take a hit. While there’s no magic number for credit utilization, the rule of thumb is usually that you should limit your utilization to 30%. Your utilization is your outstanding balances divided by your credit limit. Because your balance for the credit card in question is greater than the limit, your ratio would exceed 100%. That might cause your credit score to drop until you lower the ratio.

One thing to keep in mind is that credit utilization is calculated using all of your outstanding credit. In other words, if you have five different credit cards, your utilization takes all of their balances and credit limits into account. If you have many credit cards and most of them have no balances, going over the limit on one credit card won’t necessarily hurt your credit score.

Either way, it’s best to avoid this situation due to the over-limit fees. This is also why it’s important to discuss spending habits with any authorized users on a credit card to avoid hitting your limit.

How to Avoid Overdrafting Your Credit Card

If you go over the limit on your credit card, there are several steps you can take to rectify the situation. These steps will help you prevent the situation in the future and improve your credit.

Make Additional Repayments

One of the most important credit card rules is that you should pay more than the minimum amount due each month. Indeed, paying more than you normally pay might be a good idea, especially if the credit card that’s over its limit is a significant part of your total credit picture.

Say you have a minimum payment of $40, and you normally pay that amount each month. In that case, consider upping your payment to $50 instead. Anything you can pay above the minimum will help you reduce your credit utilization; the more you can pay, the better. This can also help you from falling into credit card debt (and here’s what happens to credit card debt when you die).

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Request a Credit Limit Increase

Another way to reduce your credit utilization is to request a credit limit increase. For instance, if you have a total credit balance of $5,000 and a total credit limit of $10,000, your utilization is 50%. If you currently have a credit card with a limit of $3,000 and can increase that limit to $4,000, your total credit limit becomes $11,000. Hence, even if your balances stay the same, your credit utilization ratio will drop to about 45%.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

Contact Your Provider

Sometimes, credit card issuers will increase your credit limit automatically, such as you if you’ve used your credit card responsibly over time. If not, you can call your card issuer and ask them to increase your credit limit. Usually, it’s best to do this after you’ve had the card for at least a few months.

When you make the request, the credit card company may review one or more of your credit reports. Keep in mind that this could result in a hard inquiry into your credit history; these checks cause a temporary dip in your credit score. The card issuer may also request proof of income, employment status, or monthly rent or mortgage payments.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

The Takeaway

It usually isn’t possible to overdraft a credit card. You may be able to go over the credit limit, but only if you opt in to over-limit fees. If you do opt in, your credit could take a hit, and you might have to pay additional fees if you exceed your credit card’s limit.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


Do credit cards allow overdrafts?

Credit cards usually do not allow overdrafts. In fact, “overdraft” is usually a banking term that refers to your checking or savings account balance dropping below $0. With credit cards, it may be possible to go over the limit if you opt in to over-limit fees.

Can you overdraft with no money on your card?

With credit cards, your balance increases as you make purchases. Hence, in this scenario, it would only be possible to overdraft a credit card if a single purchase would put you over the limit. And even then, you must have opted in to over-limit charges; otherwise, the transaction will simply be declined.

Can you overdraft a credit card at an ATM?

In most cases, you won’t overdraft a credit card at an ATM. You might be able to overdraft when requesting a cash advance, but even then, it may not be possible unless you have opted in to overdraft protection.

How can you ask for a credit limit increase?

Sometimes, credit card companies will increase your limit automatically. If that doesn’t happen and you want an increase, you can call your credit card issuer directly and ask for an increase.

Photo credit: iStock/AsiaVision

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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