Analysis

This Is How Long It Takes Your Credit Cards’ Spending Limits to Increase

I’ve been approved for a credit card, but the limit is smaller than my already-strained patience. I want a higher limit so that I can spend more without hurting my credit score.

I can do a couple of things to increase my credit card spending limits. I can wait for credit issuers to increase my limits on their own, or I can manually request an increase.

Six months is the minimum it will take for an automatic increase

Your credit card company will bump a low limit when it thinks you can handle it. At the bare minimum, you’ll need to wait six months after being approved for a shiny new credit card.

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It could take longer than that, though. Discover® raised the limit of my first credit card a year after it approved me, tripling it from $500 to $1,500. Thanks to a steady hike of automatic credit increases, my limit has increased to more than 10 times that.

To get those hikes, I proved to Discover it could trust me to spend responsibly. I did this by paying my credit card bills on time and using no more than 30% of my total credit limit, which is sometimes referred to as credit utilization. It matters.

Why credit card companies like Discover care about whether I spend responsibly: If I overspend and fail to pay off my credit card debt, then Discover loses money. It’s why the best credit card issuers start you off with low limits and steadily raise them.

One month is the maximum it will take for a manual increase

Your credit card company might take up to a month to approve you for a new credit limit increase when you manually request it, according to Experian. But some companies approve you on the spot.

You can request a credit card increase manually by going through your credit card’s app or website. Discover lets you request higher credit limits by:

  1. Opening the Discover app,
  2. Navigating to your credit card,
  3. Tapping the “Services” tab,
  4. Tapping “Credit line increase,” and
  5. Entering your gross annual income plus your monthly rent payment
  6. Tapping “Submit”

(As of this writing, I have gone through these steps and have been instantly approved for a $3,000 credit line increase, from $9,000 to $12,000. Not too shabby, Discover.)

Some companies, like Chase, prefer you to call them to request an increase. You should have your estimated yearly income and rent payments handy. You also want to wait at least six months between requests, rather than making them back to back. Otherwise, you’ll probably be denied.

Obstacles to increasing your credit limit

Late payments, using too much credit, and losing income could all make it harder for you to snag a higher credit limit. All these things signal to your credit card company that you are at risk of failing to repay your credit card debt.

But these factors don’t tell the whole story. You may be on solid ground despite losing income or making a single late payment.

Unfortunately, credit card companies rely heavily on FICO® Scores, which summarize your situation in a way that’s easy to digest. A lot of nuance is lost. Chances are, credit card companies will trust the numbers over whatever personal stories you have to tell.

That makes late payments, income loss, and high credit utilization obstacles to increasing your credit limits. If you can, wait to request an increase until you have boosted your credit score. That way, you maximize your chance of getting access to more credit.

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