While we were in the mystical city of Cincinnati recently, we did a live Drunk AMA on YouTube! It was great. We slow-flossed to a church hymn and dispelled the rumor that Ducky is, in fact, a vampire.
One of the questions we received was about Experian Boost. It’s just one of many services that offer to raise your credit score… for a fee. Even in our chaotic drunken state, we were lucid enough to unequivocally recommend that most of you shouldn’t bother with these paid services. There’s an easier, faster, and free way to raise your credit score!
Since not everyone wants to suffer through a 97-minute YouTube video of our collective vocal fry, I am now here to share the wisdom of how to instantly raise your credit score for free. Cast aside those paid services that promise you a better credit score! This is all you need to know.
The slow and steady way to raise your credit score
If you haven’t read our primer on credit scores, how they work, and how they’re calculated, go read it now. We’ll wait.
For those of you who just recklessly disobeyed my order (you will be tried in the Supreme Court of Bitch Nation by a jury of your peers at a later date), your credit score is determined by these factors:
- Payment history, 35%. Pay your bills in full and on time every time and you’ll nail it. Miss payments, or make late or partial payments and your score will suffer.
- Utilization ratio, 30%. This is the amount of available credit you have vs. what you’ve used. A low utilization ratio is good for your score.
- Length of credit history, 15%. The longer your credit history, the better your score. So keep your oldest card open and use it occasionally.
- Credit mix, 10%. Diversify with multiple kinds of credit: not only a credit card, but student loans, a car payment, a mortgage, or a temporary loan of musical talent from that creepy guy you met at a crossroads at midnight.
- New credit, 10%. Your credit score suffers when you apply to a lot of new lines of credit all at once because it makes you look risky. So strategically space out any new credit applications.
Play the long game
The best way to keep a high credit score is to excel at each of these factors consistently over time. Just never ever fuck up! It’s that easy, y’all! 🤪
But the factors are weighted! So focus on them accordingly. Don’t trust your oldest line of credit to keep you in good standing with the credit reporting bureaus while you’re missing payments on all your debt.
The simplest way to maintain a high credit score is to build a positive payment history through consistency. Pay your debts on time and in full every time. This is the long, slow, but proven path to a high credit score.
But what if you can’t afford to wait ages and ages for your consistent good credit practices to gradually raise your score? What if you made mistakes in the past, but you could really use a higher credit score right fucking now?
The quick way to raise your credit score
One of the quickest ways to improve your credit score is to lower your credit utilization ratio. That is, the amount you owe compared to the amount you could borrow. And you can do this instantaneously by requesting a higher credit limit.
That’s right: If you’re confident in your ability not to abuse it, raising your borrowing threshold will give your credit score an instant boost.
For example: if you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit, but you carry a balance of no more than $1,000, that’s a low utilization ratio and good for your score. If you have a balance of $9,000 on the same card, that’s a high utilization ratio and real bad for your score. Raise the credit limit on that card to $15,000 or $20,000 and suddenly your utilization ratio goes down without you making a single debt payment.
The less available credit you’ve used up, the more it helps your score.
How to make it work for you
You want to widen the gap between a high credit limit and a low debt balance. This is why simply asking your credit card company to increase your limit works.
I’d assumed this was a complicated process requiring some degree of cringing, bowing, and/or scraping. But it turns out increasing your credit limit is extraordinarily easy! An educator in my city’s free first-time homebuyer program described this method to me. I will try to transcribe it exactly as she said it:
“If you need a bigger line of credit, this is what you do. You call your credit card company and say, ‘I have been a customer of yours for however-many years. I have paid all of my bills in-full and on-time. I am pleased with my experience with you thus far, but I really need my credit limit extended by however-much, today. If you don’t want to increase it I’ll take my business elsewhere. I’m happy to hold if you need to get your supervisor’s approval. Thank you.’”
The sleepy evening class full of tired working folks trying to absorb financial information around dinnertime was not usually very animated. Yet the eruption caused by this amazing power-move was not unlike Game of Thrones fans hearing their Khaleesi inform a bitch that “a dragon is not a slave.”
I did exactly what she said. You’d better believe it worked.
Bonus for the phone-averse: A lot of credit card companies will allow you to make this request online! No need to talk to a human when you can just fill out a web form and go back to your normal coping mechanisms for social anxiety.
How often does this work?
Credit card companies don’t always grant an increased credit limit when asked. It’s at their own discretion. This advice is specifically for people who already have open lines of credit, not first-timers. (Don’t feel left out, bitchlings—we have a guide to getting your first credit card here.)
Sometimes they perform a soft credit check to confirm your income. After all, they want to make sure you’ve been using the card responsibly and you’re not a huge liability. Credit card companies with high interest rates might be incentivized to hand out large credit limits to pad their own pockets. And others might not because of internal risk assessments.
They all have their own internal policies for granting higher credit limits. So it’s by no means a fool-proof method!
For a little anecdotal comfort, however, I’ll say that I’ve asked for a credit limit increase at least nine times… and I’ve only been turned down once.
Ask for what you deserve
Eagle-eyed readers will spot the ambiguity in the magic script above. That’s intentional—different folks should ask for different credit limits.
Here are a few scenarios to help in picking your number.
Newbie credit user
When I went on my first business trip at age 23, I was expected to put my travel expenses on my personal credit card so the company could reimburse me later. It’s standard practice, and now that I’m older and wiser in the ways of credit card points, I see the appeal.
The problem was that at age 23 I had one lonely credit card… with a limit of $1,500.
I literally could not check into the hotel on my business trip because I didn’t have enough credit available to me on my personal card to cover the stay. So from the lobby of the hotel, I called my credit card issuer and begged for a solution.
“Oh, that’s no problem. We can raise it another $1,000.” And with those magical words, the customer service agent solved my problem. No questions asked. He just gave me access to another grand of credit because I asked for it.
If you’re new to credit, don’t ask for a lot. A little extension will go a long way. And they’re more likely to give you a little than if you ask for a big chunk of change.
About to make a major purchase
If you’re about to make a major purchase—a vehicle, a home, a bespoke dog tuxedo for your furry companion’s Bark Mitzvah—it’s worth making sure your credit score and limit are nice and high. This is for two reasons:
- You’ll need a high score to get a good interest rate on a loan if you need financing.
- You’ll need a lot of available credit with which to make the purchase on your credit card.
So make sure you’re asking for an amount that will cover the purchase and then some. You don’t want to buy Muffin’s Bark Mitzvah finery only to realize you can’t also cover your bills that month.
Making more money
Every time you get a raise or a new job or your income significantly increases… ask to raise your credit limit.
From the bank’s perspective, if you make more money then you’re even more likely to pay your credit card bill! So why wouldn’t they give you a higher credit limit that you can then spend and pay interest on? They think they’re just giving you more rope with which you can hang yourself!
But you’re smarter than that. Which leads me to my final point.
Play 5D chess with your credit card
Somewhere far in the distance, Dave Ramsey is experiencing indigestion.
This is his reaction any time someone suggests credit cards are a good thing. Yet we have no compunctions about causing him discomfort! Chomp them Tums, Dave! We’re coming for you!
We firmly believe our credit limit hack can help people. But it comes with a big caveat: It only works if you don’t max out your credit limit.
If you’re the kind of person who can’t resist using every last cent of a credit limit… stay away from this hack. If you struggle with credit card debt, think long and hard about using this hack! It can work wonders for your credit score… just as long as you consistently pay them bills.
We are in no way suggesting you ask for a $20,000 credit limit so that you can then put $20,000 on a credit card. That way leads to debt and wasted money on interest rates.
But regularly requesting an increase in your credit limit could help raise your score beyond your wildest dreams!
Confused about how credit works? We got you, boo:
- Dafuq Is Credit and How Do You Bend It to Your Will?
- A Hand-holding Guide To Getting Your First Credit Card
- The Best Way To Pay off Credit Card Debt: From the Snowball To the Avalanche
- How to Build Good Credit Without Going Into Debt
- Let’s End This Damaging Misconception About Credit Cards
And if you want us to keep creating articles like this one, come join the party on our Patreon! It keeps the lights on, keeps our beloved assistant paid a fair wage for her labor, and keeps us Bitches in snacks.
A version of this article was originally published in October, 2016.
15 thoughts to “How to Instantly Increase Your Credit Score… for FREE”
How do you decide what new limit to request? I want to request an increase in order to raise my credit score, not for any other reason. Is the sky the limit?
Ask them what they’d be willing to give you! In general, I ask for as much as they’ll give me. If you’re young and don’t have a very long history of credit, it might only be an increase of $1k, but that still helps!
How do you even get approved though?
It’s a bit late, but approved for credit or approved for the credit limit increase?
An increase is often at the discretion of individual companies. More strict companies won’t often increase limits easily, but others will. I’ve found that companies that slam you with interest, like CareCredit/Synchrony, will easily allow you to spend more because you will be absolutely buried in interest debt as soon as you do not pay off the principle or promo charge before due date. Others, like Chase, have fewer credit line increases.
In the end, all have their blend of credit line age (how long you’ve had the account), your annual income (did you pay on time monthly BUT your annual income dropped $5k?) whether you’ve been paying bare minimum or more, what your credit score currently is, etc. I wonder about but cannot prove if they are more or less likely to give that increase if you are already near your credit limit, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
My opinion is that since age of credit accounts is one factor that affects credit score, a strategy I’ve used is to simply pay off that card as much as possible but LEAVE THE ACCOUNT OPEN. You can always open a different account. The unused account may need to occasionally (like, once in a few months) be used for a $20 subscription to show activity, but pay it off in full and don’t use it again for a few months. This also widens the gap between available credit and actual use, again raising credit score- making you more likely to get that credit limit increase later.
I’ve had a lot of success with this method with *most,* but not all, CC companies. Specifically, Capital One have been absolute dickheads about this (pardon my only-semi-irrational anger outburst). They still have virtually the same credit limit on my card as they gave me over 13 years ago, when I was a starving grad student. Threats to close the card don’t move them in the least. So, here’s a question for you: given that they are my oldest card and I essentially never use it, and the limit is super low, would you actually make good on the threat, and go ahead and close the card? I have been waffling on this specifically since it’s my longest held card and I’m worried that taking that aged card off my list would hurt my score.
Whoa, I was just coming down here to say the only time I’ve been turned down for a credit line increase was with a Capital One card!
They are terrrrrible and I hate them so I don’t care about the longevity of my card (the one is question is not long anyway) I am closing it soon and high tailing it to any other company. They’ve been awful to deal with and I’ve incurred more fees with them than any other card i’ve had in 20 years.
I don’t know how helpful this is for other bitchlings out there, but I got a Chase Student card a little under 2 years ago. I started with a $500 line of credit, and only used it for gas and groceries. Now, a year and ten months later my credit line from them has increased to $2200, without me ever asking for it. Since it is a little starter card, they increase the limit automatically every 2 months of good payment history. I get that not everyone has time for that, but as a starter card it worked really well for me. They also have a “Credit Journey” thingamabob that gives you the breakdown and tells you where you can improve your card to have the greatest impact on your credit score.
I think credit is handled somewhat differently in Canada. Years ago the banks used to increase my credit limit without even asking if I wanted it. I then had to go to the bank, or phone them, to have it lowered to the original amount. I think the government put a stop to that because now they just inundate me with mail/email letting me know I’m eligible for a credit limit increase and/or hoity-toity platinum level card.
So why would I not want my credit limit increased? Two reasons.
First, if my card is hijacked and someone starts racking up purchases on it, the lower amount limits the amount of damage they can do to my finances. I know for a fact that this has saved me at least once from fraudulent card use. The bank called me up one evening asking if I was making a $10,000 purchase and I said that was impossible because my credit limit wasn’t that high. They cancelled that card ASAP and sent me a new one. And yes I know that banks are supposed to make you whole if someone steals your credit card. But that is not a guarantee and they will do their damnedest to try and pin blame on you so that they don’t have to cover it (e.g. did you have your PIN in your wallet? Did you give out your credit card number to anyone? Was your phone unsecure? etc etc)
Second reason, when I was looking for a morgage, a bank employee told me that they look at how much available credit I have, they then assume I max that out, and then they start calculating how much I can afford in monthly mortgage payments. So even if I wasn’t using the credit card, the high credit limit would count against me at that point, even though it would boost my credit score. Messed up or what.
Again, this could just be a Canadian credit quirk. Check your local rules on credit.
To get around the large purchase problem, which happens rarely, I either have the purchase split and put on two cards (I have too different cards in case one is compromised/lost/stolen etc) or I pre-pay the card for the amount that I will be exceeding the credit limit. Again this happens so rarely that it is not a problem for me, however I am in a privileged financial position of having enough funds so this trick might not work for others.
I can’t believe how some people never bother to increase their credit limit, one of the easiest and instant things you can do. As long as you are on time, most company’s have no problem issuing you a higher limit. And 0% promotions are also sometimes offered if you ask and need to pay something offf with less interest!
I’ve done this and it works! But what do you do if the company suddenly wants to LOWER your limit, because you don’t max out the card? Capital One threatens to do this to me every few months. I have other cards with better perks that I prefer to use, but I keep the Capital One card open because I’ve had it for several years.
So, I just wanted to pop in and say that sometimes companies don’t only do a soft pull to confirm, they do a hard pull. I had to complete a fully brand-new credit application to request the increase, which was very annoying. It worked in my favor since I got what I wanted, but annoying nonetheless.
Oh no!!! That sucks.
Experian Boost is totally free. Now, Experian REALLY wants you to purchase their premium service and they make it really easy to accidentally purchase it, but Boost is free. I definitely got a bump to my credit score after adding my electric bill. My only regret is that it only raises my Experian score.