My Bank Trusts Me More Than I Do and Just Raised My Credit Limit to $22K

“Good news,” the email subject line said.

That’s usually the sort of line my mother uses to talk about holiday plans or the cat’s thyroid medication.

This time, it was my bank. “Good news,” it read, “Credit line increase.”

I opened the message with great skepticism, but it wasn’t a sales pitch or spam. It was a message informing me of my new credit limit: $22,000.

“Congratulations! Your excellent credit history has earned you a credit limit increase to $22,000,” the email read. “Your new credit limit gives you more buying power — right now — for gas, groceries and the things you buy most. Enjoy your increase. You deserve it.”

Wait, what?

This wasn’t even a tailored offer for me to opt in or out of. This was a… given. The email magically appeared. And when I logged in to my online account, the new credit limit was listed there, too.

It felt too good to be true. It felt dangerous.

Why My Credit Card Limit Went Up Without Warning

I’m no stranger to credit card debt, and although I now have a clean slate and a glistening credit score, I was suspicious. So I called the number on the back of my credit card.

I asked the customer service rep if he could tell me my limit before the increase, which was $17,000. The jump to $22,000 didn’t seem so outrageous anymore, but I was still curious as to why I got the increase. I hadn’t used that credit card in a while.

Customer service guy said the system routinely checks accounts and, in some cases, boosts the card’s limit. My credit score was probably a factor.

The bank also probably wanted me to spend some money, although customer service guy didn’t say that. If I’m not using my credit card, the bank isn’t making any money from fees or interest.

In short: My credit card company likes me. It likes me enough to trust me with another $5,000.

“So… what if I don’t want my credit limit to be that high?” I asked, implying I have zero trust in my own willpower. “Can you reduce it?”

He said he’d be happy to. “But you may not want to do that.”

He gave me two reasons:

First, it’s easy to ask for a credit limit reduction. But if you call asking for an increase in credit, that’s a harder case to plead — and get approved.

Second, having a high credit limit can help lower your credit utilization ratio, which is a factor in calculating your credit score.

Why You Should Keep Track of Credit Utilization

Say you have one credit card with a $22,000 limit and a $2,000 balance. You’re using about 9% of your available credit, which looks good for your credit history.

But say you have that same balance on a card with a $6,000 limit. You’re using one-third of your available credit. That’s not bad, but it doesn’t look as great.

Making payments on time is a more important factor in calculating your credit score, but utilization rate has up to a 30% impact on your score.

Five Basic Components of Your Credit Score
Kristy Gaunt – The Penny Hoarder

Are you holding your credit card right now? Feeling nervous, wondering if you can trust yourself in the great sea of stuff you could buy and bills you could pay?

If having a new, larger credit limit makes your stomach drop, don’t call to get your limit reduced. Don’t just close the card, either — you don’t want to give up the years of credit history you’ve gained from that card.

Instead, acknowledge the change in your account, then set your own personal limit and keep credit utilization in mind.

No one ever said you had to max out your credit card. So pick your own credit limit, and make it far less than whatever the credit card company says it is. If you have a $4,000 limit, don’t use more than $500. If it’s a $12,000 limit, maybe your personal limit is at $2,000.

Challenge yourself to see how low your balance can go.

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.