When it comes to improving your credit, there are a lot of different strategies which can help you to reach your goals. Of course, paying your bills on time, every time is the first place you should start. You can also work with a credit repair professional to help try to clean up inaccurate and unverifiable information off your credit reports. You may be able to pay down credit card debt to bring about a positive credit score increase as well. However, there are also some lesser known credit improvement strategies which might surprise you.
How Will a Credit Limit Increase Impact Your Credit Scores?
If you are approved for a credit limit increase, the higher limit will often have a positive impact upon your credit scores. However, this is not always the case. Determining whether or not a credit limit increase is likely to increase your credit scores is going to depend upon a variety of factors. Let's walk through them together.
1. Will a credit limit increase lower your revolving utilization ratio?
Credit scoring models like FICO and VantageScore are built so that they pay a lot of attention to the relationship between your reported credit card balances and your account limits. This relationship is known as your revolving utilization ratio. Here is a quick example to show how revolving utilization is calculated:
Original Credit Limit: $5,000
Account Balance on Credit Report: $1,000
Revolving Utilization Ratio: $1,000 (Balance) ÷ $5,000 (Limit) = 0.20 X 100 = 20%
The lower your revolving utilization falls, the better the impact is for your credit scores. Naturally, paying off your credit card balances is probably the best way to achieve a lower revolving utilization ratio. However, if you cannot afford to pay down your credit card debt sufficiently, a credit limit increase might lower your revolving utilization as well. Here's how it works:
Increased Credit Limit: $10,000
Account Balance on Credit Report: $1,000
Revolving Utilization Ratio: $1,000 (Balance) ÷ $10,000 (Limit) = 0.10 X 100 = 10%
As you can see in the example above, the revolving utilization ratio was cut in half simply by increasing the credit limit on the account. This would be very likely to have a positive credit score impact.
2. Can a credit limit increase hurt your credit scores?
Generally a credit limit increase will not harm your credit scores. However, if your credit card issuer wants to check your credit report in order to review your request for a limit increase (a common requirement) then a hard inquiry would be added to your credit file. If your request for a limit increase is denied (typically due to credit problems), then you will have undergone a hard inquiry with no upside.
Hard inquiries have the potential to damage your credit scores. Of course, you should keep in mind that not every hard inquiry automatically has a damaging effect upon your credit scores and, even when they do, the impact is typically minor. If your request for a credit limit increase is approved and the result is a lower aggregate revolving utilization ratio, the overall result for your credit scores will still probably be positive in spite of the new inquiry.
Managing Your New Credit Limit Increase
It is important to remember that while a well-managed credit card account can potentially be great for your credit scores, credit card debt is another story. Credit card debt can be both expensive and can damage your credit scores, even if you make all of your monthly payments on time. If you request a credit limit increase as a strategy to help boost your credit scores, you will have to be extra vigilant and commit to not charge up additional debt. Otherwise, or you could find yourself in a difficult situation to manage in the not-so-distant future.
Michelle Black is an author and a credit expert with nearly 2 decades of experience, the credit blogger at HOPE4USA.com, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars on various credit and financial topics. She is an expert on improving credit scores, credit reporting, correcting credit errors, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft.