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What is a credit limit and how does it work?

Having more credit can give you extra financial flexibility. Here's a guide to how your limit is calculated and how you can increase it.

What is a credit limit?

The credit limit on a credit card is the maximum amount you can borrow on that card at any one time. The credit card company will set your limit depending on how much you can afford to borrow. They will look at various factors to assess this. Your limit could be anything from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds. Usually, you won't know what your credit limit will be when you apply for your card, but you need to think about what is affordable for you.

Once you've spent up to your limit on the card, it's 'maxed out' - you won't be able to use it again until you've reduced your balance accordingly.

Staying within your credit limit maintains your credit score and helps you manage your debt sensibly.

How is your credit limit calculated?

The lender will look at your credit history as well as other key factors to decide whether to accept your application and what credit limit to offer.

Some of the key factors a lender will consider as part of their affordability calculations are:

  • your earnings - in particular, what's left over after your monthly expenses
  • your debts - for example, a mortgage, loans or other credit cards
  • your current credit - the card or overdraft credit you have available but aren't currently using
  • your repayment history - whether you've missed payments on debts in the past

Their goal is to offer you a credit limit that they're confident you can afford, reducing the risk to them.


What if you go over your credit limit?

If you're already near your credit limit and you make a purchase that will push you over, the credit card company will let the transaction go through on some occasions.

However, being over your limit will have consequences. You'll normally be charged a fee. There could also be longer-term effects. Going over your limit could damage your credit rating and, if it happens repeatedly, lead to your credit card company lowering your credit limit or closing your account altogether.

How to increase credit card limits

Usually you can request to increase your credit limit by contacting your card provider.

You'll need to tell them the new credit limit you'd like. They will then look at your card use and credit history and make a decision. They may approve the credit limit increase, offer a lower increase or refuse altogether.

The card provider will have a policy on credit limit increases. Some only offer an increase once you've had the card for six months or a year.

Top tips to increase your credit limit

Never miss a payment - even paying your credit card bill one day late could affect your chances of getting a credit limit increase in future.

Give it time - the longer you've had your card, the more likely you are to get a credit limit increase.

Use your card regularly and sensibly, without going too close to your credit limit. This shows lenders that you can manage credit and will make them more likely to be willing to offer you more credit in the future.

Don't ask too often - requesting a credit limit increase too many times can affect your credit score.

Did you know...? You can decrease the credit limit on a credit card. Reducing your unused credit can make it easier to get a loan or mortgage, as you will have reduced the existing credit you have available.


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