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An ample credit limit can give you lots of spending power and flexibility, so it’s understandable why a person may be looking to get a higher one.

Still, if you’re one of them, be sure you can handle more available credit first. Credit cards are best leveraged by paying your balance off in full each month. Otherwise, interest can really bump up the lifetime cost of your debt.

Plus, high credit card balances can damage your credit — you want to keep the amount of debt you owe below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your available credit limit(s) for best results. You can see how current balances may be affecting your score by viewing your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

Will More Credit Cause More Problems?

Consumers looking for a higher credit limit because they’re already overextended should look to pay existing expensive balances down first. Doing so can keep you from getting (even further) in over your head.

You can pay down credit card debt by looking into a debt consolidation loan or balance transfer credit card. (You can go here to learn about the best balance transfer credit cards in America.) You can also redraft your budget to see where you might be able to find more dollars to put toward those balances.

With that in mind, here’s how you can ultimately score a higher credit limit.

1. Improve Your Credit

Lending decisions — including what credit limit you will be awarded — are largely determined by your credit score. So, before you start looking for a bump, be sure your credit is in tip-top shape. You can generally improve your credit by reviewing your credit reports for errors, pinpointing your credit score killers and coming up with an action plan.

2. Increase Your Net Income

Issuers also take income into consideration when deciding on credit limits, so increasing your monetary intake (or, conversely, lowering your monthly expenses) could make you eligible for an increase. Keep in mind, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) allows banks to consider any household income you have access to, an important consideration for at-home spouses.

3. Call Your Issuer

Issuers routinely review cardholder creditworthiness, so, yes, there’s a chance they’ll up your credit limit all on their own. But if there’s a time-sensitive reason you’re looking for more credit or there are certain circumstances your issuer may not otherwise know about (like your recent raise), you’re better off calling them directly to request an increase. Just remember this request may generate a hard inquiry on your credit report.

4. Comparison Shop

If your issuer won’t bump up your limit or you think your credit score has improved enough to qualify for better terms and conditions, consider shopping around for a new credit card. Premium rewards credit cards, for instance, tend to have higher credit limits associated with them. Just be sure to vet carefully any card you are considering before applying, since these applications, too, will generate a hard inquiry on your credit report and could ding your credit score.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

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