Most credit cards come with credit limits that determine how much you can spend at any given time. Requesting a credit line increase is something you might consider if you’d like to have more purchasing power, you want to schedule a balance transfer, or you need a cash advance.
Asking for a higher credit limit can be as simple as calling the credit card company or completing an online form. In some cases, a credit card company may grant one automatically based on an account history.
Increasing available credit can also improve credit utilization, which could raise your credit score. But asking to increase credit limits for one or more cards could potentially cost you points if it involves a hard credit inquiry.
Knowing how to increase a credit limit the right way can minimize credit score impacts.
Why Credit Limits Matter for Credit Scoring
Credit scores are a measure of your ability to manage debt responsibly. FICO® Scores, which are used by 90% of top lenders, are calculated using these five factors:
• Payment history (35% of your score)
• Credit utilization (30% of your score)
• Length of credit history (15% of your score)
• Credit mix (10% of your score)
• New credit inquiries (10%)
Credit limits are important because they can affect the credit utilization part of your credit score. Credit utilization refers to the percentage of your available credit you’re using. For example, if you have a credit card with a $5,000 limit and a $1,000 balance, your credit utilization is 20%.
Using a lot of your available credit can be detrimental to your credit scores, while keeping balances low can improve your scores.
Generally, it’s recommended that you keep the ratio at 30% or less for the most favorable credit score impact. A higher ratio could suggest to lenders that you may be struggling to manage spending and debt.
Does Requesting a Credit Increase Hurt Your Score?
Whether a credit line increase hurts your credit score, or affects it all, depends on how the credit card company reviews your financial information. Specifically, it hinges on whether the credit card company performs a soft or hard inquiry into your credit history.
Remember, credit inquiries account for 10% of your FICO credit score. An inquiry simply means that you have authorized a creditor or biller to review your credit reports and scores. (Inquiries for credit remain on your credit report for two years, though they only affect FICO credit score calculations for 12 months.)
When requesting an increase in credit limit that involves a hard pull, you may lose a few credit score points. While the impact isn’t as significant as a late payment or a maxed-out credit card, it’s still worth noting.
If you were to ask for a credit line increase from several cards at once, multiple hard inquiries could cost you more points.
A soft inquiry, on the other hand, has no credit score impact. Checking your own credit score, prescreened credit offers, and credit screenings that are required as part of an employer’s hiring process are examples of soft pulls.
Can a Credit Line Increase Positively Impact a Credit Score?
While you may lose a few points initially if your credit card company performs a hard inquiry, asking to increase your limit could help your credit score over time.
It all goes back to credit utilization. If raising your credit limit on one or more credit cards improves your credit utilization, then you may see a positive effect on your credit score.
Say you have a card with a $10,000 limit and a $5,000 balance. That puts your credit utilization at 50%. But if you can increase the credit limit to $15,000, you instantly shrink your credit utilization to 33%.
The key to making this strategy work is not adding to your debt balance. Going back to the previous example, say that you have to unexpectedly replace your HVAC system to the tune of $5,000. You decide to take advantage of your new higher credit limit to make the purchase.
Now your balance is $10,000. While you still have a $5,000 available credit cushion, you’ve increased your credit utilization to 66%. That could result in a credit score drop until you’re able to pay some of the balance down. So, while asking for a credit line increase can give you more purchasing power, that can work against you if you use it.
Four Ways to Increase a Credit Limit
There are several ways to get a credit line increase, depending on what your credit card company offers. There are different types of credit cards, and card issuers don’t always follow the same policies with regard to credit limit increases.
Before asking to increase your credit limit, get familiar with the various ways your credit card company allows you to do it. Then consider how much of a credit limit increase you’d like to ask for.
Keep in mind that whether the credit card company grants your request can depend on things like:
• How long you’ve been a customer
• Your account history, including payment and purchase history
• Your income
• Credit scores, if a hard pull is required
With that in mind, here are four ways to get a higher credit limit:
Request a Credit Line Increase Online
Your credit card company may make it easy to ask for a higher credit limit online. Log in to your account, navigate to the Request Credit Limit Increase section, and fill out the relevant details. You may need to update your income information.
If your credit card company offers this option, it’s possible to be approved for a credit line increase almost instantly. But a decision may be delayed if the credit card company wants to take time to review your account or credit history.
Update Your Income Information
Credit card companies may periodically ask you to update your income information when you log in. You may be tempted to skip over this step, but it’s worth taking a moment to do, as the credit card company may use the information to grant an automatic credit limit increase.
Again, whether you’re eligible for an automatic credit line increase can depend on the type of your card and your account history, income, and overall financial situation.
Call and Ask
If your credit card company doesn’t allow for automatic increases or credit limit increase requests online, you can always call and ask for a higher limit. You may need to tell them your income, specify how much of a credit limit increase you’d like, and provide a reason for the request.
Calling the credit card company may also be worthwhile if you’ve been denied for a credit limit increase online. You can ask the card provider to reconsider your request, but be prepared to make a strong case (e.g., significantly higher income, on-time payment history) for why it should do so.
Open a New Credit Card Account
If you’ve tried other avenues for requesting an increase in credit limit and been unsuccessful, you could always consider opening a brand-new credit card account. The upside is that you can expand your available credit if you’re approved, which could improve your credit utilization ratio.
Some credit cards can also help with paying off debt. With the SoFi Credit Card, for example, SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.
The downside of opening a new credit card is that applying can ding your score, since it typically involves a hard inquiry. But if you’re able to keep your credit utilization low, that could help make up the difference in lost points relatively quickly.
How to increase your credit limit? If you have good credit, requesting a higher credit limit may be easy. The key is knowing how to make the most of a credit limit increase to improve your credit score.
Keeping your balances as low is a step in the right direction. Paying your balance in full each month is even better, since this can help you avoid paying interest on credit cards.
Finally, spacing out credit line increase requests and opening new accounts sparingly can help keep credit scores on track.
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