What is a credit limit?
The credit limit on your credit card is the maximum balance that you can have on your card at any time, including your purchases, interest charges, and fees. A credit card will be declined if the cardholder tries to continuing spending money after they have already reached their credit limit, and a penalty fee will usually be charged for going over the limit.
Most credit cards have a minimum and a maximum credit limit that applies to that card, e.g. $2,000 – $20,000. But this does not mean that if you are approved for a certain card, you are automatically entitled to the maximum credit limit.
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How credit card limits are determined
Credit card companies determine your credit limit based on your ability to repay that credit limit. When you first apply for a credit card, the lender will approve your account for a certain credit limit based on the information you provide in your application.
Some of the eligibility criteria that credit card companies use to determine your credit limit include the following:
- Your annual or monthly income (the higher your income, the higher the likely credit limit)
- Your employment status (full-time, part-time, casual, contractor, self-employed, seasonal worker)
- Your credit rating, which measures how credit-worthy you are and how likely you are to repay the credit limit
- Your repayment history with that lender, or your repayment history with other lenders as shown on your credit report (if you are a new card applicant for that lender)
- Whether or not you own an asset such as a house that can be used as security against your credit limit
In most cases, the more you earn in annual income, the higher the credit limit that would be approved for your card. Your employment status is also important, and being self-employed can often be a barrier to receiving a higher credit limit because lenders perceive self-employment income as being less reliable and less frequent.
In addition, different types of credit card (Rewards, Low Rate, Low Fee) and different colours of rewards credit card (Gold, Silver, Platinum, Black) also have different minimum and maximum credit limits. Rewards credit cards will typically have a higher maximum credit limit than Low Rate credit cards, for example. And within the Rewards credit cards category, a Black credit card will typically have a higher maximum credit card than a Gold credit card.
How to know what your credit card limit might be
Online credit limit calculators and tools do exist to help you determine ahead of time what credit limit a lender may approve for your card. However, credit limit calculators are often general in nature and they are by no means a guarantee that a lender will approve a certain credit limit for your card, even if the calculator was created by that lender. So take what these tools say with a grain of salt on don’t rely on them when planning a big purchase.
How easy is it to increase my credit card limit?
Lenders will approve or reject your increase application based on whether or not you meet eligibility criteria such as having a good repayment history on your card, never exceeding your current credit limit, and always paying your monthly bill on time. Tips for increasing your credit card limit include making sure that your credit rating has a clean bill of health and paying down your outstanding balance on the card.
With most lenders, you will need to contact your lender if you want to request an increase to your credit limit, but some lenders allow you to change your credit limit using online banking.
Only the primary cardholder on a credit card account will be able to request an increase (or decrease) to the credit limit on that account and additional cards.
Sometimes the lender may offer you a credit limit increase without you having to ask. If you’ve been a consistently responsible user of the credit card (in the eyes of your lender), at some stage they may offer you an increase to your credit limit.
Whether you should accept an offer to increase your limit or apply for an increase is another question entirely, and we’ve addressed that question here. After all, according to Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) statistics, credit limits in Australia have increased (by 11% over 5 years) – and at the same time, the ASIC debt clock shows that the average credit card debt has also risen, by around 37% from 2015 to 2016 alone.
Can I decrease my credit limit?
Yes. Unless your card is already set to the minimum credit limit for that particular card product, you can request a decrease in your credit limit.
This can be a helpful move if you want to stick to your budget and avoid the temptation of overspending up to a high credit limit.
It is also a smart move to decrease the credit limits on your credit cards before applying for a home loan or a personal loan. This is because your credit limit is a potential liability in the eyes of lenders, who see that you could spend up to that amount in credit card debt.
You usually need to contact your lender to request a decrease in credit limit.
If you are already at your minimum credit limit, perhaps it’s time to look for a credit card with a lower credit limit, such as a Low Rate or Low Fee card. On our comparison tables, you can select up to 3 products for side by side comparison, where you can see a table outlining what the minimum and maximum credit limits are for those cards.
If you’re currently comparing credit cards, the comparison table below displays some of the low interest credit cards currently available on Canstar’s database for Australians looking to spend around $2,000 per month. Please note that this table features links direct to the provider’s website, and is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest), followed by provider name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s credit card comparison selector to view a wider range of credit cards.
Learn more about Credit Cards
- What are credit card late payment fees?
- Am I eligible to apply for a credit card?