When it comes to credit card limits, higher is generally better.
A higher credit limit can give you more buying power—allowing you the option to make larger purchases and potentially earn more rewards.
But how does requesting a credit limit increase affect your credit score? Does requesting a credit increase hurt your score or are there no consequences?
Like most credit-related questions such as “does applying for a credit card hurt your credit rating?” or “does checking your credit score lower it?”, how a credit limit increase affects your credit score depends on several factors. Under the right circumstances, asking your card provider to raise your credit limit might raise your credit scores.
But there is at least one situation where asking for a credit line increase could set your credit score back.
Your credit score is based on the information found on your credit report.
When any details on your credit report change—such as your credit card limit—it can have an impact on your credit score. In fact, merely asking for a credit limit increase might affect your score, even if the card issuer denies your request.
Whether your credit score improves, declines, or stays the same depends on three critical factors:
If your request for additional credit is successful, there's a good chance your credit score will improve as a result.
Credit scoring models like FICO and VantageScore base a meaningful portion of your credit score on a detail known as your credit utilization ratio. With FICO Scores in particular, 30% of your credit score is based on credit utilization and similar factors.
Credit utilization — also called revolving utilization — describes the relationship between your credit card limits and balances (as they appear on your credit report).
For example, if you have a $500 balance on a credit card with a $1,000 limit, your credit utilization rate is 50%. When your credit card balance gets closer to your credit limit, your credit risk increases and your credit score may decline.
The best way to decrease your utilization ratio is to pay down your credit card balance.
Another way to reduce your credit utilization ratio is by getting a higher limit on a credit card account.
No matter how it happens, if your credit card utilization rate goes down, your credit score has a good chance of going up in response.
When you ask for a credit card limit increase, you're essentially applying for additional credit. So your credit card issuer may want to review your credit report before deciding whether to approve or deny the request.
If a card issuer checks your credit report (with your permission), a record of the access will appear on your report. This is called a hard credit inquiry. A hard credit inquiry might hurt your credit score, even if the card issuer denies your request for a credit limit increase.
However, it’s important to keep the following in mind where credit inquiries are concerned:
If your card issuer approves your request for a credit limit increase, the overall impact on your credit score may be positive. The potential credit score benefit (lower credit utilization) has a good chance of outweighing any credit score downside (a new credit inquiry).
Even if a hard inquiry does damage your credit score, the impact should be relatively short lived.
And your card issuer might not review your credit report when you request a higher limit, in which case there will be no new inquiry to worry about in the first place.
Having a high credit card limit comes with benefits. Here are three reasons why you might want to ask your credit card company to increase your credit line.
Just remember, it's important not to let a higher credit limit become an excuse to take on more debt. This is where many people raise the question “is no credit better than bad credit?” because as the credit limit increases, your debt can increase if you don’t pay off the balance every month.
The best way to manage your credit cards is to pay off your full statement balance each month, regardless of the size of your credit limit. Paying your account in full protects your credit scores and helps you avoid wasting money on high interest fees.
Timing is important when you request a credit limit increase. Knowing when to ask for a credit card limit increase (and when to wait) may give you better odds of approval.
Your card issuer might be more likely to approve your request for a higher credit limit under some (or several) of the following conditions:
It’s also important to understand that there are times when you probably shouldn’t ask for a credit limit increase. You may want to avoid requesting a higher credit limit if:
Of course, each credit card issuer has its own criteria when it comes to approving a credit limit increase request. Some card issuers will want to check your credit history and score while others may skip this step (especially for smaller credit limit increase requests).
At Capital One, for example, credit accounts that have only been open a few months are generally too new to be considered. If an account has received an increase or decrease in the past few months, it typically won’t be considered either. Discover and OnPoint Community Credit Union offer other examples.
With most credit card issuers, the process of requesting a higher credit limit is easy.
Depending on the company, you may be able to make your request either online or over the phone. In general, it’s better to call and speak with a live person. A phone call allows you to ask questions, gather important details, and potentially improve your chances of a positive outcome.
Before you call your card issuer, you should have the following information handy:
In addition to the information above, your credit card issuer may ask you what you would like your new credit limit to be moving forward. Everyone will have their own answer to this question. But here are some factors to consider.
Asking for a credit limit increase is the same as asking a credit card issuer to loan you more money.
So just like with new account applications, the credit card company will want to assess its risk before making a decision.
There are three possible outcomes you may encounter when you request a higher credit limit.
Sometimes a credit card issuer will let you know its decision right away. Other times, you might have to wait to receive a notice online or via mail.
If your card issuer denies your request, be sure to ask the phone representative why you can’t qualify for a higher credit limit now. These details can be helpful if you want to try again for a credit limit increase in the future.
If your overall credit utilization is too high, for example, you could work to pay down your credit card balances and reapply for an increased credit limit later.
When you use your credit card responsibly, your card issuer may voluntarily boost your credit limit on its own from time to time. For instance, a credit card company might increase your credit line once every six to 12 months, provided your account is in good standing.
Automatic credit limit increases are typically positive from a credit score standpoint. There are no hard credit inquiries involved for you to worry about. And your credit score might improve if your newly raised credit limit lowers your revolving credit utilization ratio.
If you have the Self secured credit card, you may become eligible to make your own secured credit limit increases. Eventually, some accounts will also be granted unsecured credit limit increases. Learn more at the Self credit limit increase FAQs and our article about unsecured credit for the Self card.
Michelle L. Black is a leading credit expert with over 17 years of experience in the credit industry. She’s an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting and debt eradication. See her on Linkedin and Twitter.
Lauren Bringle is an Accredited Financial Counselor® with Self Financial– a financial technology company with a mission to help people build credit and savings. See Lauren on Linkedin and Twitter.