Ever since the financial crisis, credit issuers have become increasingly judicious about giving out credit limit increases. It wasn’t unheard of to be granted an astronomical increase to your credit line just by merely asking. Now issuers are being a little more thorough when processing requests for limit increases.

There’s no surefire way of getting that credit limit increase you want, but there are steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of receiving one when you ask for it. This guide can help.

 

  1. Ask yourself why

 

There are good and bad reasons for wanting a credit limit increase.

 

One good reason is wanting to improve your credit utilization ratio in the hopes of raising your FICO® Scores. If you have a $2,000 balance on a credit card with a $5,000 credit limit (40% credit utilization), increasing your credit ceiling to $7,000 (28.5% credit utilization) may improve your FICO Scores. Aiming to keep your credit utilization under 30% is common rule of thumb among financial experts that can actually help you get credit limit increases in the future.

 

A bad reason for wanting a credit limit increase is thinking that it will be a solution to your debt woes. If you’re already using a large percentage of your credit line, your chances of being granted a credit limit increase are low. A better option for those trying to maintain a healthy distance between their balance and their limit is credit debt consolidation. Balancing your debt between credit cards can improve your credit utilization ratio and give you a better chance of getting a limit increase when you finally have your debt under control.

 

  1. Know when the time is right

 

You just opened up your account. You can’t remember the last time you made more than a minimum payment. You’ve been making delinquent payments. If any of these apply to you, now is probably not the time to ask for a credit limit increase.

 

Issuers take a variety of factors into account when deciding whether to grant you an increase, but payment history ranks high on their list. It’s also one of the factors you can actually have direct knowledge about. If you know your recent payment history has been spotty, it’s probably not worth asking for an increase. Your request will prompt a hard inquiry, which can negatively impact your credit score by a few points—a few points you likely can’t afford to lose if you’ve been having trouble making payments.

 

On the other hand, if you’ve had a credit card account open for at least 6 months and have been making on-time payments beyond the minimum, your chances of getting a limit increase are a lot higher. Now is the time to strike!

 

  1. Just ask

At this point, most of the hard work is behind you—you’ve established a solid credit history and shown yourself to be a dependable, low-risk credit user. All that’s left for you to do is submit your request.

Most issuers offer online services for requesting credit line increases. This is a convenient option for anyone who knows their FICO® Scores are high enough, and their payment history reliable enough, to likely be granted a limit increase. You simply provide the relevant financial information asked for, and your request might be processed immediately.

The more traditional way of asking for an increase is getting on the phone and talking directly to the bank or credit card company staff that handles credit limit increase requests. Be prepared to answer questions about your income, employment, and other relevant financial information (and don’t lie!—you might get a letter from your issuer in the mail asking you to verify the information you provided).

Speaking with someone on the phone affords you the opportunity to be a little persuasive. They’ll likely have access to most of the information they need about you, but it never hurts to remind them why you think you deserve and can responsibly handle a limit increase.

Know you have high FICO® Scores? Tell them. Been a longtime customer? Remind them of your loyalty. Have a stellar credit history? Inform them that you’ve never made a late payment.

Remember, getting a limit increase is never a sure thing. There’s no way to guarantee your issuer will accept your request, and they aren’t bound by any laws that require them to give you one even if you’ve built excellent credit. All you can do is take steps that maximize your chances of getting an increase when you want one.

Have any approval stories you’d like to share? Let us know about them in the comments or post in our Credit Card Approval board.