Credit limits are just as personal as credit scores, depending on a variety of factors like credit history, income, employment status and current debt. Generally, first-time credit card applicants receive small credit limits.
A credit limit of $500 to $1,000 is average for a first credit card, but it may be higher if you have, say, a history of on-time car payments on your credit file. On the other hand, unemployment or low income may contribute to a lower credit limit.
Average credit limit for first-time credit card holders
Many first-time credit card applicants are young, which means they often don’t have the most robust credit histories. Income tends to rise with age, too. Both of these factors work against credit newcomers looking for high credit limits.
Still, it’s possible to have good credit without having used a credit card. Car payments, student loans and being an authorized user on someone else’s card can all contribute to your credit score and boost your credit limit on your first credit card.
- Good credit: If you have good credit, you’ll have a better chance at being approved for a higher credit limit than someone with fair or poor credit. But even with good credit, the average credit limit you can expect to get with a first credit card is generally between $500 and $1,000.
- Average credit: If you have fair credit, expect a credit limit of around $300 to $500.
- Poor credit: Credit limits between $100 and $300 are common for people with poor credit scores. This is because people with bad credit are considered at high risk for defaulting, or not paying back their balance.
Not sure where you fall on the credit range? You can check your credit score for free (and with no impact to your score) through several services, like American Express MyCredit Guide and Capital One’s CreditWise.
How your credit limit is determined
As mentioned, credit card issuers use several measures to determine how risky it is to lend to you . Here are some factors that help issuers determine your credit limit.
- Your credit history: Better credit works toward a higher limit.
- Income and employment: Regular income from full or part-time employment looks good to lenders. Of course, the higher the income, the better.
- Your debt load: Unfortunately, even “good” debts like student loans can work against you.
- The type of card: Traditional credit cards allow the issuer to set the credit limit. But if you have some cash you can tuck away, a secured credit card offers more flexibility. Secured cards require a cash deposit upfront, which will usually be equal to your credit limit. Since you typically don’t get access to credit beyond the cash you supply, secured cards aren’t for people who truly need to borrow money. Rather, they’re for people with bad credit who are determined to improve it.
How to get a higher credit limit
Not only does a higher credit limit give you more buying power, but it also may boost your credit score. Maxing out your credit card is bad for your score, and a higher limit will give you more breathing room.
According to the latest data from Experian, the average credit card limit is $30,365. That’s a pretty big jump from $500. So how do you increase your credit limit?
If your application is approved but you’re unhappy with your credit limit, you can call your issuer to ask for an increase. However, you’re not likely to change the decision unless you have new information—like higher income, for example.
You’re more likely to get a higher limit after you’ve had your first account for a while. With a history of timely payments, not only will your credit score improve, but your financial institution will start to trust you more.
Another way to get access to more credit is to apply for another credit card. While one issuer might not be comfortable raising your credit limit from $500 to $1,000, another issuer may be willing to give you a new card with a $500 limit. The effect—$1,000 combined credit limit—is the same. Keep in mind that it’s best to wait six months (at least 90 days if not) between credit card applications.