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American Express Credit Line Increase Returns

Back in late 2009, I shared a tutorial for how to increase your line of credit on an American Express credit card. As the credit crisis intensified, American Express removed that option from the account management screens – leaving many without a way to request an increase online. Well, the hawks at Fatwallet have reported that the option has returned!

The original tutorial still works (the menus are slightly different but you get the idea) and the original advice of “don’t be greedy” still applies. Don’t request very large increases (keep your limit under $25,000 and don’t make a large jump) and don’t request one too often – no more than once every six months. You should get an automatic increase, if all goes well, or a message that says you will be contacted for financial review (that’s bad).

Why would you want to request credit line increases? It reduces your credit utilization and can mitigate some of the negative effects of canceling other credit cards.

Since my limit is above the $25,000 threshold, and mostly because I don’t need more credit, I haven’t bothered using it.


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5 Credit Cards to Avoid at All Costs

Free Soda for Credit CardIt’s true: There are some ways that credit cards can help you. With proper planning, you can get a credit card that provides you with free merchandise, travel discounts and cash back. The right rewards card, when used responsibly and paid down, can be a boon to your finances. Additionally, the responsible use of credit can help you build a financial reputation that can save you money when you get home loans and auto loans.

But, not all credit cards are created equal. Here are 5 credit cards to avoid at all costs:

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The 10-Second Credit Limit Increase

I logged into my Citi credit card account online today to make some changes to my profile when I decided to try to get an automatic credit line increase. I figured I was already logged in doing other things, a few button clicks to see if I could increase the limit certainly wasn’t going to cost me much time. I swung up to Tools & Services and click on Request a Credit Line Increase. If you recently did this, the option won’t be there.

I clicked on it and this is what appeared:
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American Express Credit Card Limit Increase Tutorial

Regularly requesting credit limit increases, if done correctly, can increase your credit score and mitigate the effects of canceling credit cards. This post will explain how to navigate the menus of American Express’ online interface so that you can request a credit limit increase without triggering a hard credit inquiry. I have done this successfully myself several times.

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How to Increase Your Credit Limit

If a recent Your Take post on credit card credit limits is any indication, there’s no secret to getting a higher credit limit on your card. I thought I was high with a near $70,000 credit limit but plenty of people had total unsecured credit limits in the $60,000 – $100,000 range. While it wasn’t a scientific survey, I wouldn’t surprised to read that, in general, unsecured credit limits are much higher than people expect.

That being said, I think a good way for a consumer to protect themselves from the somewhat unpredictable credit score system is by increase their credit limits as much as possible without increasing how many credit cards they have.

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Your Take: What Is Your Total Credit Limit?

I thought it would be fun to add up all the credit limits of every credit card and line of credit we had to see what that amount was.

My total? $69,600 (we don’t have any lines of credit)

My cards (starred ones are cards I actively use):

My wife? $35,500. (and we just did a quick Citi credit limit increase request and they raised my wife’s limit on one of her cards by $1,500 with no credit pull)

I win! (just kidding)

Is there a point to all this other than to have a meaningless pissing contest? First, it’s important to know your total credit limit because you want to know, if the crap hits the fan, how much money you have access to. Knowing that we have $100,000 in unsecured credit is only important if we ever need that sum in the first place. While unsecured credit cards won’t be the first place we turn to for funds, at least we know it’s there and we can make informed decisions knowing the “worst case.”

Another benefit of this exercise is that we have a listing of every credit card we have. I don’t carry the Discover Cards or the Citi Platinum Dividend card, they’re hidden somewhere in our house. Even though I don’t use them, I should know that I have an account there and the details of that account. Going through this little exercise jogs my memory about the credit cards I have.

Finally, I was a little surprised that I had $69,600 of unsecured credit at my fingertips (though if you ever read some of the App-o-rama’s at Fatwallet, $69k is what those wizards can get in a day’s time). I can see now why credit card companies are cutting credit limits. All it takes is a job loss, which isn’t reported to credit card companies or credit bureaus, and I could very quickly rack up some unsecured credit card debt.

Wondering why the Citi Platinum and AMEX cards have such high credit limits? I would periodically request credit line increases back when the economy was cruising. They’d be granted without a hard inquiry, so at no cost to me I was seeing my limits increase every few months.

So, do you know your total credit limit? If so, how much is it?

(Photo: Andres Rueda)


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Requesting Credit Line Increases

Every six months or so (I just do it whenever I remember), I pop into a few of my accounts and request a credit line increase. Why? I know that I don’t need the additional credit but I still ask for it because now is when they’re most likely to grant me a credit line increase. Banks usually won’t give you money when you actually need it, it’s a paradox! Well, most credit card companies will not entertain the notion of an increase within the first six or first twelve months because they’ve given you all they’re comfortable with and won’t even consider increasing it… yet. If you even try requesting one from a newly minted card, you’ll be greeted with a message to come back later. But, after you leave credit limit purgatory… the sky’s the limit and you should try to soar.

Once you’ve made it out of the no-increase period, requesting an increase is easier at some companies than others. Citi and American Express will both allow you to increase your credit line entirely online whereas Discover will force you to call their 800 number and talk to a human being. Now, when you go to request an increase, prior to entering any information, the company may offer you a small increase. This isn’t meant to placate you, this is because they planned on increasing it some amount in the near future and since you asked, they’ll just give it to you now. I always accept this increase because it comes without any pull of your credit history.

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