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Applying for a new credit card might seem like the perfect solution when you want to manage your spending in a way that works for you.
Be it an intro 0% APR that you're after, or just more generous rewards on purchases, credit cards let you buy now and pay later, helping you take control of big projects like home renovations and even everyday spending.
As convenient as credit cards are, however, there's no guarantee that you'll be approved for the credit limit you want. It can be a let down to submit an application only to receive a credit limit that's lower than your expectations, and worse — it can put your goals up in the air.
On average, consumers who open a store card may only receive a limit between $2,000 to $2,500, and it can be below $1,000 in some cases, according to Equifax’s Credit Trends report. The average credit limit for general-use cards was higher, averaging between $5,000 to $6,000, but that can still be low for your needs.
Creditors look at a host of factors when deciding your limit, including their assessment of your credit risk, your income level, your credit score and issues they see on your credit report such as high revolving credit card balances, recent inquiries or large loan amounts.
But they take into account a few completely independent factors, too, like how well the economy is doing at the time you applied. There's no way to predict exactly how much you can expect to be approved for.
It can be disappointing to get a low credit limit, but you're not entirely without options. After a few months, consider asking for a credit limit increase on your new card, or you can request a higher limit on a card you've had for a while.
Here's a breakdown on how credit limit increases work and how you can request one.
Credit limit increases can happen automatically for longstanding customers on occasion, or you can manually request one if you've only been a customer for a few months.
Card issuers are known to automatically increase cardholders’ credit limits from time to time (with no effect to your credit score), especially if you keep your income information up-to-date and have a good payment history.
However, not everyone will receive an automatic increase. And even if you get a higher credit limit, you may not receive the increase you need. It can therefore be a good idea to ask for a larger credit limit yourself.
Before you get started on your request, consider the three qualifications:
- You generally need to be a cardholder for at least three months.
- You typically can only request an increase once every six months.
- Card issuers may review your credit report if you request a specific credit limit.
These rules may not be an issue for you, but if you have bad credit or your score is under review (you're in the mortgage process or applying for a new apartment, for instance), consider holding off on submitting a credit limit increase to preserve your credit score (we explain why below).
When you’re ready to ask for a credit limit increase, you’ll have the option of completing the request online or over the phone. You can submit the request via your card issuer’s mobile app or by logging into your online account.
Another option is to call customer service and ask for an increase. This option gives your request a personal touch and allows you to explain your reasoning why you need a larger credit limit and give reassurance that you can repay it. Discussing a recent raise or a longstanding, positive relationship can help strengthen your chances of getting an increase.
Requesting a credit limit increase may ding your credit score a few points if the card issuer pulls your credit report. It’s key to check the online form or ask the rep if your credit report will be reviewed.
Before starting your request, gather this information:
- Annual income
- Employment status
- Monthly housing payments (rent or mortgage)
- Desired new credit limit, which some issuers let you input during the request
You can typically expect to receive an instant decision on whether your credit limit increase is approved or denied.
If your request was denied, you may need to wait up to six months to try again. While you wait, aim to raise your credit score through on-time payments and boost your income, so you can strengthen the chance you get approved next time. You can also improve your credit score through Experian Boost™, which allows you to get credit for on-time phone, utility and streaming service payments.
Average credit score increase
10+ points, though results vary
Credit report affected
Credit scoring model used