Lots of good things are free just for asking, and some good things may be free even without asking. One such example is an increase in your credit limit for one or more of your credit cards.
The advantage of getting a credit limit increase (CLI) without asking is that if you request a CLI, the issuer likely will use a hard pull to review your credit scores. A hard pull can knock a few points off your score. If you’re given an automatic CLI, or auto-CLI, there’s a better chance your issuer will use a soft pull (or soft inquiry), which shouldn’t affect your credit scores.
If you ask one card company for a CLI, the impact of a few shaved-off points may be minor. If you ask several companies, however, the impact on your credit score could be significant. What’s more, asking for a CLI could imply that you need more credit due to financial difficulties. In either case, asking for a CLI could hurt your chances of getting one.
So, how can you get a CLI without asking? Card companies have their own proprietary criteria for auto-CLIs, which they rarely disclose. Given the elusive nature of this information, your best approach may be a combination of strategy, patience, and luck.
Here are three steps you could take that may help.
1. Update Your Income
Your income isn’t the only factor card issuers may consider when they review your account for an auto-CLI, but it may be one of the more important. To understand why, it’s helpful to review how your income factors into card approval.
To get approved for a card, you’ll have to have at least some regular income. It could come from:
- A full-time or part-time job
- Gig-economy hustle
- Social Security or pension benefits
- Student financial aid
- Public assistance
- Your spouse
- Other sources
Card issuers expect you to have a verifiable income source so you can make at least the minimum payment each month if you use your card for new purchases or carry a balance. If you don’t have a steady income, you may be able to get approved for a card with a cosigner, if he or she has good credit and is willing to be equally responsible for your card payment.
Your income will be an important factor in your initial credit limit upon approval. The more you earn, the higher that limit will likely be.
If your income increases, you may receive a CLI. Your income could increase if you:
- Work more hours
- Get a raise
- Earn a minimum wage that’s increased by law
- Get married
- Graduate and get your first full-time job
- Other reasons
Keep in mind that card issuers don’t look at your income only as a raw number. They also consider how much of your income you have to use every month to make your minimum payments for your cards and other debt obligations.
This percentage is known as your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. Your DTI shows how well you’re able to manage the debt you have with the income you earn.
If your income increases and you don’t borrow or charge more, your DTI will improve because you’ll have more income to make your minimum payments. If your income increases and you do borrow or charge more, your DTI may not improve. The implication is that if your income increases, but you also add more debt, you may not see the auto-CLI you hoped for.
You don’t have to tell your card issuers you’re earning more but updating your income could encourage them to review your card accounts and raise your limits even if you don’t request a higher limit.
You may be able to update your income online. A phone call should work as well if your card issuer doesn’t offer that option.
2. Use Your Card Responsibly
Card issuers generally like customers who:
- Have good credit habits
- Have higher than average credit scores
- Make at least the minimum payment every month
- Pay on time (or early) every month
- Keep their account open for at least six months or preferably much longer
- Carry a balance
- Don’t max out their card
- Don’t try to charge more than their card’s limit
- Pay off other debt
- Don’t apply for more credit elsewhere
- Use their mobile apps
While it’s impossible to know for sure which, if any, of these behaviors will trigger an auto-CLI, it’s reasonable to assume that companies generally like to reward their customers’ good credit behavior. This suggests that any of these behaviors may — and we must emphasize may — help you get an auto-CLI.
It may seem odd that doing nothing could help you get an auto-CLI, but sometimes, as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
Card issuers generally review their customers’ income, payment history, and credit scores on a regular basis, so you may receive a CLI just because you’ve handled the credit you have well over time. To improve your chances, you may want to:
- Make your minimum payments on time every month
- Keep your existing credit accounts open
- Use a variety of different types of credit
- Avoid maxing out any of your credit cards
If your credit history and credit scores look good when your card issuers review your accounts, you may be rewarded with auto-CLIs for that reason.
Issuers with Automatic Credit Limit Increases
Below we’ll evaluate the credit card issuers that are known to provide automatic credit limit increases and their top card offers.
Capital One doesn’t disclose its parameters for automatic credit limit increases on its website, but it does state that if you have a Capital One card, you can request a credit limit increase. To make the request, you’ll have to share some information, such as your:
- Employment status (e.g., employed, self-employed, unemployed, retired or student)
- Monthly rent or mortgage payment
To improve your chances, you should:
- Make your card payment on time every month
- Pay more than the minimum
- Monitor your credit score
- Keep all your credit accounts in good standing (i.e., no delinquencies or defaults)
- Keep your income and employment status up to date
Your request may be approved if:
- Your account has been open at least three months
- Your card isn’t secured
- Your credit limit hasn’t changed in the previous six months
Approval may be immediate, or the decision could take a few days. The company will approve you for the highest limit it can allow. If you prefer a lower limit, you can choose that instead.
Capital One also has what’s known as the Credit Steps program, which reviews certain cardholder accounts for CLIs after five consecutive on-time payments. Below are select Capital One cards that may be eligible to receive an auto-CLI.
“Over time, when you use your credit card responsibly, your credit score may begin to climb, and your credit limit can increase,” Capital One says.
Discover doesn’t disclose its criteria for CLIs on its website, but it does offer some general information about how card issuers determine card limits. Factors that, Discover says, may matter include your:
- Payment history
- Overall credit utilization ratio
- Credit utilization ratio for individual credit accounts
- Length of credit history
- Housing costs
- Recent credit inquiries
Your credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your available credit that you use. It’s normally tracked for each of your credit cards individually and all of your credit cards collectively.
You may be more likely to be approved for a CLI if:
- Your utilization ratio is low
- Your credit history is long
- Your rent or mortgage payment is low relative to your income
- You haven’t applied for a lot of new credit within a short period of time
Below are the best Discover cards they may be eligible to receive auto-CLIs.
“The best way to increase your odds of a high credit limit is to make sure all the components that affect your credit score are in good standing,” according to Discover.
As with other credit-card issuers, Chase doesn’t mention auto-CLIs on its website. It does offer a smidgen of information about how to request a Chase credit limit increase.
“You may request an increase to your credit line by calling the number on the back of your credit card; you cannot submit a request online at this time. Your request for an increase to your credit limit is subject to the approval of Chase,” Chase states.
If you decide to call and ask, you’ll have to wait and see what response you’ll get, but here are some tips for approval.
Below are the best Chase cards that may be eligible to receive an auto-CLI.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
The criteria Chase uses to approve or deny CLI requests aren’t disclosed.
Bank of America
Bank of America doesn’t discuss CLIs on its website, except to state that if you’re going on a trip, you can request a credit limit increase online or by phone.
To make a request online, sign in to Bank of America’s online banking, choose your credit card account, select Information & Services, choose “Manage your account” and then click on “Credit line increase.” If you don’t see that option, your account isn’t eligible for you to request a CLI.
To make a request by phone, call the toll-free number on the back of your Bank of America credit card.
Below are the top Bank of America cards that may be eligible to receive an auto-CLI.
- 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
- 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
- There's no annual fee and your cash rewards don't expire. Each month, as you plan for future purchases, you can change your 3% choice category online or through our mobile app.
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
- Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees while earning points to use for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees
- Introductory 0%† APR for your first 12 billing cycles for purchases. After that, a Variable APR that's currently 14.99% to 22.99% will apply.
- 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening – which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
- That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend, everywhere, every time.
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
14.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
- 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then 12.99% to 22.99% Variable APR
- $0 Intro Balance transfer fee during first 60 days of account opening. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10).
- No annual fee
- No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply.
- Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
12.99% to 22.99% (Variable)
Bank of America generally requires account holders to wait a minimum of three to six months from account opening or their last increase before requesting a CLI.
Citi says on its website “There is no one-size-fits-all answer” to inquiries about CLIs. The company doesn’t disclose its criteria, but says you may be able to request a credit card limit increase “if you maintain timely payments and use your card in line with the terms and conditions of your card issuer.”
Citi says a higher limit may be useful if you’re planning to make large purchases and you can pay off your balance in full every month, but it’s important to think about your spending and whether you can responsibly manage a higher limit.
“Whether this is an option for you or not depends on several factors, including your credit history,” Citi says.
Below are the top Citibank cards that may be eligible to receive an auto-CLI.
How Do Credit Limit Increases Affect Your Credit Score?
Changes to your credit limits may affect your credit scores primarily in two ways:
Inquiries – When you request a CLI, your card issuer usually will review, or “pull,” your credit history and one or more of your credit scores. This is known as an inquiry or a pull. A hard pull indicates that you proactively requested additional credit; consequently, it may chop a few points off your scores. A soft pull normally won’t affect your scores. You typically don’t get to choose which type of pull your issuer uses when you request a CLI.
Utilization – A CLI will, by its very nature, increase the amount of credit you have available. If you continue to use the same amount of credit as you previously did, the CLI will lower your utilization ratio. If you start to use more credit, your utilization ratio may be lower, the same, or higher after you receive a CLI. A lower ratio may increase your credit scores, a higher ratio could lower your scores.
“Any time you make a change to your credit history, you may see a temporary dip in credit scores,” says credit bureau Experian. “However, increasing your credit limits on your credit cards will not likely hurt, and can help, your credit scores in the long run.”
Can Banks Increase Your Limit without Your Permission?
Yes, your card companies can increase or decrease your credit limits without asking for your permission, and they may have good reasons to do so.
Card companies are highly competitive, and they have a profit motive to attract and retain the best customers. If you’ve demonstrated that you’re a good credit risk, your card company may want to encourage you to use your card more and carry a higher balance.
A higher limit with the opportunity to boost your credit score and earn more card rewards may make you more loyal to that card. Maybe you’ll even stop using another card that you also like, or you’ll transfer a balance from another card to the one that gave you a new higher limit. Using your card more is what your card company wants you to do.
If you receive a credit limit increase, it may be just 10 or 15% of your previous limit or it could be as much as 30% or more. If you receive a higher limit that you don’t want, perhaps because you have a habit of overspending, you can contact your card company and ask to have your limit lowered.
How Often Do Credit Card Companies Increase Your Limit?
There’s no real discernible or predictable pattern to CLIs. Rather, the timing depends on your card issuer’s proprietary guidelines and your individual circumstances.
Over time, your card company may:
- Increase your limit repeatedly
- Give you a one-time bump
- Offer you a temporary increase as part of a balance transfer offer
- Never increase your limit at all
- Increase your limit only if you proactively request an increase
- Decrease your limit
Which of those actions occurs depends on a variety of factors, which may include:
- Your card companies’ guidelines
- The types of cards you have
- Your income and DTI
- Your card usage and payment history
- Your credit utilization ratios
- Your credit scores
- Other factors
It’s important to understand that card companies also increase or decrease card limits in response to economic trends and business developments.
For example, during the 2007-2009 economic recession, card companies noticed a rise in credit card delinquencies and defaults. To try to protect themselves from those losses, they lowered many consumers’ credit card limits. The possibility that your limit may be lowered even if you don’t carry a balance and make your payment on time every month is a good reason not to max out your cards.
Should You Always Accept a Credit Limit Increase?
For most people, the answer is probably yes. Higher credit limits enable you to charge high-dollar purchases without maxing out your cards or having your transaction declined.
Higher limits also give you the opportunity to earn more card rewards and become better prepared for financial emergencies that could tap out your savings. Another benefit is that your credit scores may go up, particularly if you receive a CLI, but don’t use a bigger percentage of your available credit.
“From the standpoint of increasing your credit scores,” says credit bureau Experian, “You can’t have too much available credit. Having a very low credit utilization ratio, such as one that’s under 10%, can only help your credit scores.”
With higher scores, you may receive better offers for other loans, such as a mortgage or auto loan.
All that said, there’s one important caveat of CLIs, which is that higher limits could enable you to charge more than you can afford. If you’ve had trouble using credit responsibly in the past or you feel you may overspend in the future, a CLI may be a “no” for you.
Earn More Spending Power with a Limit Increase
Auto-CLIs can be unpredictable and even surprising since card companies usually don’t disclose how, when, or why they increase or decrease credit limits.
If you’re eligible for a CLI, you can request one. If you’d prefer to wait and see, you may receive an auto-CLI — or you may not.
If you’re ready for more credit, a better approach may be to shop for a new card rather than hope your current card companies will grant your wishes.