The first credit card I ever got was an AT&T Universal Card because someone had a table outside Doherty Hall at Carnegie Mellon University, my alma mater. I may have gotten a t-shirt out of it too.
The biggest appeal of the card? The fact that I could get one as a freshman with no income (the guy told me to put my tuition for salary… I'm pretty sure that wasn't legit).
Fast forward a million years and I no longer have that card (it no longer exists, but you can still see an application page for it — 35 cents per minute domestic calls!) and instead use a series of three cards depending on the situation. All told, our total “credit limit” across every card (several of which are in the desk drawer) is over a hundred thousand dollars.
How did we get that much credit? Simple. We just asked for more.
And kept asking. And asking.
You can get more credit too, all you have to do is ask!
Why would you do this? It can improve your credit score. Credit utilization is a major factor in your credit score and credit utilization is a simple math calculation – total credit used divided by total credit available. When you increase your credit limit, you are increasing your total credit… thus lowering utilization.
There are three ways you can get your credit card to increase your credit limit:
- Wait – As you demonstrate that you can use and pay off credit, card issuers will increase it automatically. But you're not the type to wait around for things to happen, so let's talk about the other two.
- Ask via telephone – Call the customer service number on the back and navigate your way to a human being. Then ask about the process for increasing your credit limit without a credit inquiry. This is always an option but I've never actually done this myself because you can also…
- Ask online – Almost every credit card issuer has a way to request a credit line increase online. Customer service representatives in a call center cost money, computers do not. This is the way I've always done it and this is what I recommend. You can get a credit line increase faster than you can reach a human being on the telephone. There are some issuers, like Chase for example, that require you to call in.
When doing this online, and on the phone but it's less obvious, you want to get the increase without a credit report request. When it doubt, especially on the phone, ask if the increase request will require a credit review. If it does, don't submit the request. If you don't know, don't submit the request. Better safe than sorry.
We include screenshots for Citi, CapitalOne, and American Express below but each issuer follows the same basic flow. Find your credit management area of the account and look for Request Credit Limit Increase. On the request page, confirm that the issuer will not initiate an inquiry with your credit bureau or request your credit report.
This is very important.
You should look for language like “instant approval” or “automatic” – which means a computer will have made the decision based the numbers they have in front of them. If it requires a manual review or a credit check, stop. That hard inquiry will more than negate the positive effects of an increase.
If in doubt, don't make the request.
Log into your account and click on Account Management in the top menu.
Under Balance Transfers, Lines & Loans, click on Request a Credit Line Increase.
This is the screen you'll see:
As you can see, it says “A credit bureau report will not be requested and you will receive an instant decision.”
For Citi, you don't even need to enter in the amount you want. Just enter your annual income, your housing payment, and boom!
It took 10 seconds and my credit limit went from $16,000 to $18,200 with no credit pull. A 13.75% increase in the limit of my card with no risk involved.
I could ask for more but it would require a credit review, which includes a credit report hard inquiry, which would decrease my score. I don't need the credit limit for the limit, so I stop.
Log into your account and click on Services in the top menu.
Under Card Services, click on Request Credit Line Increase.
This is the screen you'll see:
Again, it states that “Checking your eligibility will not affect your credit score.”
I submitted in my information, confirmed on the subsequent page (not shown), and boom!
A $1,000 increase on a $10,000 credit limit, increasing my credit line by 10%.
If those were my only two credit cards, my total credit would've increased from $26,000 to $29,200. For thirty seconds of work, I've increased my total limits by $3200 (+12.3%).
Log into your account and click on Profile in the top menu. On the next page, click on Credit Management in the sidebar.
You will see a Increase Line of Credit option, make sure you are on the correct account before continuing.
American Express will require you to enter the 4-digit number on the front of your card first, followed by the total amount of credit you want. For the previous two, you simply requested an increase and found out.
Rejections & Further Review
Sometimes your request will not be automatically accepted, this will happen if you requested and were granted an increase recently. “Recently” could be as few as six months or as long as 18 months, it depends on the issuer's practices.
Here's what CapitalOne will show you if your request requires further review:
In this case, CapitalOne will not increase an account that's less than 3 months old or received a credit line increase or decrease in the last six months.
With the American Express walkthrough, I was actually given a “further review” notice. I requested a 10% increase to my credit limit and was given this message:
Your request for a line of credit increase has been submitted.
You will receive a written response within 7-10 days.
But there's no cost, except your time, to asking and not getting the increase.
How often can I do this? It depends on the issuer but most will only approve increases every six months. They will also require you to have a card for more than a few months, sometimes as little as 60 days. They just granted you a line of credit based on your application, they want to see how you behave with it before making a decision on giving you more. Each issuer will answer this question in a FAQ on their site.
There are some folks who request an increase every 6 months like clockwork. I'm not nearly that diligent, I ask when I remember and that usually works out to be once a year for the cards we use regularly and never for the ones we don't.
If you want to do this regularly, I recommend creating a calendar notification that reminds you every six months to request an increase.
Over time, your limit will creep up and then you too can live the American Dream of having way more credit than you need.
What happens if they do make an inquiry? If it's a hard inquiry, expect a single digit fall in your credit score for about 12 months. It's as if you just applied for a new credit card. Hard inquiries will cost you a few points but the impact subsides after a year. The higher your credit is now, the bigger the dip.
If you haven't asked for an increase in the last six months, I urge you to try now and report back what you find!
Have you done this? What's your total credit limit and what's your system?
(Image Credit: Frankleleon)