How to Ask for a Credit Limit Increase — and Why You Should

If you’ve been careful to keep your financial nose clean, it’s fairly easy to obtain a credit limit increase on your credit cards

Many credit cardholders assume that getting a credit limit increase is akin to having a root canal — a difficult, drawn-out process, uncomfortable at best and, occasionally, excruciatingly painful. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

A Few Caveats

Let me preface the following discussion with this statement: if you don’t have a history of prompt payment, then don’t expect to easily get a higher limit. The issuer may turn you down outright, or you may have to trade something for the increase — such as rewards privileges, or a decent interest rate.

If you’ve ever defaulted on any credit card, have a lousy credit score, or you’ve already maxed out your card, then as they say in Jersey, fugeddaboudit. Credit card issuers are much more likely to increase your limit when you don’t actually need the money.

Contingencies

So why bother to increase your credit limit when times are good? Because you might need that higher limit somewhere down the road. Onto every parade some rain must fall, and a high credit limit can be a comfort when you find yourself in an emergency situation where a few thousand extra dollars makes a difference.

Arranging for a higher rate can also bump up your credit score. FICO scoring takes into account your utilization rate — i.e., the percentage of available credit vs. the amount you’re actually using. If you suddenly have more available credit while still owing the same amount, your credit score automatically goes up.

Anyway!

The easiest way to get a higher credit limit is simply to approach the card issuer and ask for it. If you’re a cardholder in good standing with more than six months of billing and payment history, and use your card regularly, they’ll look on you more favorably.

Some advisors suggest you apply for the credit limit increase online first, because you’re more likely to get it. Some issuers, like Citi and American Express, may even give you the increase automatically when you ask. Otherwise, you’ll need to call ’em on the phone and talk to customer service.

Final Words of Advice

First of all, be patient. You’ve definitely got to be a model consumer during that first few months, always paying on time and never maxing out your card. Even if they say no when you ask for more credit, just wait a while and ask again. And if they offer you an increase that’s smaller than you expected, take it.

Then just wait a little more, be a good cardholder, and ask again. Keep it up, and you’ll eventually work your way up to the credit limit increase you were after in the first place.