Requesting a credit limit increase can hurt your score, but only in the short term. If you ask for a higher credit limit, most issuers will do a hard “pull,” or “hard inquiry,” of your credit history. A hard inquiry will temporarily lower your credit score. Bank of America, Barclays, Chase, U.S. Bank and USAA will conduct a hard inquiry if you request a credit limit increase. American Express, Capital One and Wells Fargo will not. Citi will notify you when you call if they will generate a hard inquiry or a soft inquiry, which does not affect your score. Discover typically uses soft inquiries, but if you don’t accept the credit limit offered and request a higher limit, it will then be a hard inquiry.
Hard inquiries will lower your credit score by a few points, but can only affect your score for one year. After two years, hard inquires completely drop off of your credit report. The other thing you need to watch out for is overspending. Requesting a credit limit increase could really wind up hurting your credit score if you use the extra spending power to rack up debt you can’t afford to repay.
Still, the potential negatives that come with requesting a credit limit increase can be managed and are often outweighed by the benefits of having a higher credit limit. The boost in your credit limit could also raise your credit score as long as your spending stays at the same level. The additional credit would lower your utilization, which is the ratio of your balance compared to your credit limit. Ideally, this number should be less than 30 percent for each card. Keeping utilization low tells issuers you’re responsible and aren’t just desperate to max out your card.
Some issuers also extend automatic credit limit increases to eligible cardholders. These increases may occur periodically and do not generate a hard inquiry. To give yourself the best odds of receiving an automatic increase, make all of your monthly payments on time, preferably in full. And give it some time. Issuers tend not to extend automatic increases until you’ve had a card for at least six months. Similarly, if you recently received an increase on an existing account, expect to wait at least six to 12 months before you’re considered for another increase, assuming you manage your account responsibly in the meantime.