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Increasing your card's credit limit

When you take out a new credit card, you’ll be allocated a credit limit that’s based largely on your credit score. To minimise risk, it will probably be relatively low even if you have a good score. But there will be situations when you might want more credit and need a higher limit. How do you go about getting it?

The waiting game

It's normal for credit card issuers to review the way you've handled your credit card and decide whether your limit deserves an increase – or indeed a decrease. They're essentially doing a personalised credit rating on you based on your performance. If you've used the card regularly, kept on top of repayments and not maxed it out, you may be able to get the limit increased after 6 months or so.

Requesting a rise

If you feel like you might need some more credit, perhaps to make a large purchase or go on holiday, you might want to request a higher credit limit.

Most card providers have some mechanism for making a request, but remember it is just that – a request. The provider will run a credit check on you and also review how well you’ve managed your card so far. If the card is new, there won't be much usage data so be prepared to have your request rejected. But if there's enough good data about you in their system, it's possible you’ll get the increase you asked for.

Protecting your credit score

Remember, the act of a lender performing a credit check leaves a footprint on your personal score. This footprint is quite short-lived, but if multiple footprints are detected (i.e. from lots of credit requests over a short period of time), it will trigger an alert and reduce your chances of getting credit. So if you do find yourself rejected for a credit limit increase, leave it a month or two before you ask again – even if it’s from a completely different issuer. There are more tips on protecting and improving your credit score.

Different lenders have different rules

Some lenders will ask you for proof of earnings if you request a limit increase. This is to prevent people who have recently become unemployed or taken a pay cut from using a credit card to supplement their income, which would represent a risk to the lender.

It's not unusual for issuers to limit their customers to one increase every three months, so if you had one last month, it's probably best to wait two or three months.

But there’s probably no harm in asking

Apart from the temporary footprint it leaves, requesting an increase will not have any medium-term impact, so if you think you might need a bit more spending power, it’s probably worth making a request.

Using a smaller percentage of your available credit is a positive marker for some rating agencies or card issuers. It shows good management and less likelihood of risky spending. Naturally, if you increase your limit but keep your balance the same, it will mean you have a lower ratio of balance to available credit. Although the effect might be small, it's the sum of many small factors that make up your credit score.