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Does requesting a credit limit increase affect your credit score?

Select spoke with experts to find out if asking for a higher credit limit impacts your credit score.

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Getting your credit limit increased can be as easy as calling customer service or making a request through your issuer's mobile app. While a credit limit increase might make it easier for you to pay for your next big purchase or improve your credit score, consumers should know that it can actually impact your credit score. 

Select spoke with Ted Rossman, credit card senior industry analyst at Bankrate, and Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, to find out more about how your credit score could be affected by requesting a higher credit limit.

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Is it a hard inquiry or a soft inquiry?

Depending on the card issuer, making a request for a higher credit limit can incur either a hard inquiry, a soft inquiry or both types of credit checks into your credit report, explains Rossman. 

A hard inquiry occurs when a lender pulls your credit report — this action typically causes your credit score to decrease between five and 10 points. Note that while a hard inquiry will only affect your credit score for up to one year, it will stay on your credit report for two years.

In contrast, a soft credit check doesn't have any effect on your credit score. For example, Capital One would not perform a hard inquiry if a cardholder were to request an increased credit limit for one of their Capital One credit cards.

Keep in mind that most card issuers don't publicly reveal which type of credit check they'll perform on consumers requesting a higher credit limit, so you'll want to call ahead and ask to be sure.

You can quickly request a credit limit increase for Citi credit cards, like the Citi® Double Cash Card, through the bank's app with just a few taps. And reports indicate that Citibank will almost always only use a soft pull when making this request, however if you want a higher credit limit than what Citi initially offers you, they'll then perform a hard pull. Citi also offers automatic credit limit increases which don't result in a hard pull.

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    15.49% - 25.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    For balance transfers completed within 4 months of account opening, an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies; after that, a balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies

  • Foreign transaction fee

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  • Credit needed

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Terms apply.

Increasing your credit limit could improve your credit score in the long run

Schulz notes that you shouldn't be too concerned if your card issuer performs a hard inquiry into your credit report as the slight ding to your credit score is only temporary. The benefits of asking and receiving a higher credit limit often outweigh the negative effects of the inquiry into your credit report, says Schulz.

When you increase your credit limit, you may also be improving your credit utilization ratio, which can help your credit score in the long run. There are five factors that make up your FICO credit score: your payment history (35%), the amount owed (30%), the length of your credit history (15%), your credit mix (10%) and new credit (10%).

The amount owed category (30%) considers five factors as well, including how much money you owe across all your accounts, the amount you owe based on the different types of accounts you have, the value of your current balances, how much you owe on your installment loans and your credit utilization ratio. 

Therefore, experts say the credit utilization ratio comprises 30% of your FICO score since it only applies to revolving lines of credit and is defined as the ratio of credit you're using to the total amount of credit you've been extended.

For example, if you owe $2,000 on a credit card with a $10,000 limit, that means you have a utilization ratio of 20% on that card. The total credit utilization ratio would be based on the total amount of revolving credit you've been extended and the total amount you've used.

While experts generally recommend that people keep their credit utilization ratio under 30%, anything below 10% is even better.

Credit utilization is the second most important factor in the FICO scoring formula after your payment history, so improving your credit utilization ratio can end up having a positive impact on your credit history, explains Schulz.

All three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are currently offering free weekly credit reports due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through annualcreditreports.com. Getting into the habit of checking your credit report can also make it easier to spot incidents of fraud. Credit monitoring services such as CreditWise®, Experian free credit monitoring and IdentityForce® UltraSecure can also be used to detect errors on your credit report — if someone was applying for a line of credit under your name, for instance.

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On Experian's secure site
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  • Credit bureaus monitored

    Experian

  • Credit scoring model used

    FICO®

  • Dark web scan

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  • Identity insurance

    No

Terms apply.

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  • Credit bureaus monitored

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  • Credit scoring model used

    VantageScore 3.0

  • Dark web scan

    Yes

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Terms apply. To learn more about IdentityForce®, visit their website or call 855-979-1118. 

Bottom line

Regardless of whether your credit card issuer performs a hard or soft credit check (or both), when you ask for a higher credit limit, the impact those inquiries have on your credit score is typically negligible in the long run. Cardholders should instead focus more on why they're asking for a higher credit limit — you don't want to use the credit increase to bankroll a lifestyle you can't afford, but remember, getting your credit limit raised may help you finance important expenses and can boost your credit score by lowering your credit utilization ratio.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.