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Should I Ask for a Credit Card Limit Increase?

Sometimes, timing is everything. For instance, credit card issuers may be willing and eager to increase your credit limit, but only if the request is made at the right time.

Why Increase Your Credit Limit?

There are three main reasons to ask for a credit card limit increase. First, cardholders may regularly need the additional purchasing power afforded by a larger credit limit. For example, someone who travels on business each week could easily charge $10,000 a month in airfare, hotels, rental cars and meals.

In other cases, cardholders may need to make a large purchase every once in a while such as supplies for a large home improvement project. Finally, cardholders may just want to increase their credit limit in order to reduce their debt to credit ratio, which can help their credit scores. (The free Credit Report Card tool can show you where your debt to credit ratio currently stands, how it may be affecting your credit scores, and how it compares to the national average.)

Maximize Your Chances of Approval

The first thing a credit card issuer will do when you ask for a credit limit increase is to examine your credit report and your payment history. Therefore, you will want to wait until you can show a consistent pattern of on-time payments. To increase your chances of receiving a credit limit increase, you will also want to wait some time after applying for new credit like a home mortgage, car loan or additional credit cards. Unfortunately, lenders that see multiple requests for new credit will interpret it as a sign that the borrower may be experiencing financial trouble, and card issuers will be less likely to grant an increase.

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Another factor to consider is the age of the account. Credit card issuers are also reluctant to grant credit limit increases within six months of when a cardholder opened his or her account. This may be because cardholders have not had the chance to establish a record of timely payments, or perhaps because their credit worthiness will not have changed significantly in such a short period of time.

Protect Your Credit

Since card issuers will check your credit report when you ask for a credit line increase, this request may have an impact on your credit score. Card issuers can perform what is called either a “soft pull” or a “hard pull” depending on the issuer and the amount of additional credit requested. While

a soft pull has no impact on your credit scores, multiple hard pulls within a short period of time are seen as multiple requests for new credit, which can hurt credit scores. Therefore, you will want to avoid requesting credit limit increases before applying for a more important loan, such as a car loan or a mortgage.

When There’s No Fixed Limit

Some credit cards are marketed as having no preset spending limit. In this case, customers will want to contact their card issuer in advance of making very large purchases. With a quick telephone call, cardholders can be pre-approved for large purchases or at least avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience of having the charge declined at the register. Thankfully, these requests are unlikely to result in a hard pull on your credit report, so there is little downside in asking.

Receiving a credit limit increase is never a sure thing, but choosing the right time to ask can make all the difference. By understanding the factors involved in requesting a credit limit increase, cardholders can choose the best time to ask the card issuer to their relationship to the next level.

Image: iStock

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Note: It's important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and personal finance since 2008, poring through the terms and conditions of credit card agreements to understand the minutiae of how these products work. His work has appeared on Yahoo, MSN, HuffingtonPost and other major news outlets. In his free time, Jason's a commercial pilot. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in History. More by Jason Steele

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