I recently decided to ask for higher credit limits on several of my credit cards. This can improve your credit score, as long as your issuers approve and you continue to use your cards responsibly. Here’s how I fared asking for more credit from Capital One, American Express and Wells Fargo.
I recently decided to ask for higher credit limits on several of my credit cards.This strategy can help you improve your credit score because it should lower your credit utilization ratio (as long as you don’t run up lots of new charges). Your credit utilization ratio is how much credit you’re using divided by your credit limit. Generally, it’s best to keep it below 30 percent, and below 10 percent is considered excellent.
Credit utilization is a key component of “how much you owe,” the broad category that makes up 30 percent of your FICO score (only your payment history, at 35 percent, is more important). It’s usually reported as of your statement date, so even if you pay your credit card bills in full (which you should, to avoid interest), it’s possible that you still have a high credit utilization ratio.
Asking for a higher credit limit could help you. Just make sure you don’t view it as a reason to overspend.
I have credit cards issued by American Express, Capital One, Chase and Wells Fargo. I started by researching their respective credit limit increase procedures. I learned that Chase would perform a hard inquiry, so I decided not to request a higher limit from them.
Hard inquiries (generally associated with more formal applications for credit) typically trim 5-10 points off your credit score for about six months. Having too many hard inquiries on your report suggests you’re a risky borrower.
I established that the other three would be soft inquiries, which don’t affect your credit score, so I moved forward with American Express, Capital One and Wells Fargo. Our prior research found that 85 percent of people who asked for higher credit limits were successful, so I thought I would fare well. Here’s what happened.
I initiated this request online. If you want to do the same, log into your Capital One account, click “View Account,” then “I Want To…” and then “Request Credit Line Increase.” You can also call customer service.
Capital One asked for my annual income, my monthly mortgage payment, how much I spend monthly on this credit card (the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card), how much I spend monthly on my other credit cards and my desired credit limit. It’s particularly interesting that they asked how much I spend on my other credit cards. That suggests to me that Capital One views a credit limit increase as a chance to expand its market share.
I sought to double my credit limit (in this case, from $10,000 to $20,000). Capital One has gotten stingier with credit limits to prepare for a potential economic downturn. That’s because their customer base skews more “Main Street,” especially compared with rivals such as Amex, which cater to a more upscale clientele.
Still, I thought my odds were good because this is my oldest credit card (I’ve had it since 2003), it’s the card I use the most, and my income has gone up a lot since my last credit limit hike. I was approved for $13,000, a 30 percent increase. Honestly, I thought I’d fare better.
There are numerous stories of cardholders getting their Amex limits tripled. I didn’t want to be greedy, though, and I wanted to keep my experiment as apples-to-apples as possible. I asked them to double the $17,500 limit on my Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. That was already my highest limit by a wide margin.
I made the request online (log into your account, select “Account Services” and then “Increase Your Credit Limit”). Amex asked for my annual income and my desired credit limit – that was it.
I was told that I would receive a response via postal mail in 7-10 days. But later that day, when I logged back into my account, I noticed my credit limit was $35,000. So my request was approved! (A snail mail letter confirmed that about a week later.)
The final leg on my journey was to call Wells Fargo (they don’t accept requests for higher credit limits online). The representative asked for my annual income, my monthly mortgage payment and my desired credit limit. I again asked to double my credit line (from $7,500 to $15,000).
The new limit on my Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is (drumroll, please) … $13,200. That’s a 76 percent increase, but like Capital One, not quite as much as I asked for.
It took about half an hour (combined) to complete the three requests. My total credit limit on these cards went from $35,000 to $61,200 (a 75 percent increase). This illustrates my earlier point about how higher credit limits can improve your credit utilization ratio, as long as your spending remains constant.
Usage of $10,500 would have been a 30 percent ratio – generally considered good – when the total limit was $35,000. I’m simplifying a bit because the FICO algorithm looks at utilization per card as well as in total, though the latter carries more weight.
With my new total credit limit of $61,000, owing that same $10,500 translates to a much lower overall utilization of just 17 percent. As long as you treat a higher credit limit responsibly, it’s a quick, easy and free way to improve your credit score.