One of the first questions we tend to ask when approved for a credit card is: What’s the credit limit? But putting that new limit in context can be difficult if you don’t know what the average credit card limit actually looks like.
Is your new credit limit good? Is it subpar? And how important is having a high credit limit, anyway? We’ve answered some key questions about credit limits and found the average credit card limits for American cardholders.
Why is your credit limit important?
Thanks to movies and songs that glorify the obscene credit limits of the rich and famous, many of us are inclined to lust after a high credit limit. In the real world, however, the average credit card limit is a lot more Schwinn than it is Ferrari. Thankfully, you don’t need the ability to charge a new car on your credit cards — just your car insurance.
That’s not to say that your credit card limit isn’t important, of course. Not only do you need to have a credit limit high enough to cover your expenses, your limit also plays an important role in your credit score. In particular, credit scoring formulas look at your credit utilization, which is the ratio of how much credit card debt you have versus how much credit you have available.
For example, if you have a credit limit of $1,000 and a card balance of $100, your utilization rate for that card is: $100 / $1,000 = 0.10, or 10%. Common wisdom is that you should keep your utilization rate below 30% to avoid credit score damage, but a rate in the single digits is typically closer to ideal. So, while you don’t necessarily need a sky-high credit limit, a higher limit can help keep your utilization rate low.
How do card issuers determine your credit limits?
The hardest part of figuring out how your credit limits stack up is that there’s no definitive guide that all credit card companies use to set your limits. But though each card issuer has its own process, they all look at some of the same things when making a decision:
- Your credit score: Since your credit score acts as a sort of summary of your credit report, it is a big factor in most credit decisions, including setting your spending limit. If you have an excellent credit score, you’re more likely to receive a high credit limit. If you have a low score, your limit will also be low.
- Your credit history age: In general, credit card companies know that the longer you’ve had credit, the more likely you are to use it responsibly. That’s why the age of your credit history will play a big role in how much credit you’re offered. And, as we see below, the average credit card limit increases steadily with age.
- Your income: The credit card spending limit you’re offered is a direct result of how risky the card issuer thinks you are as a customer. While income isn’t as important as your credit history in determining your credit limit, a high income can help you get a higher credit limit than you may otherwise receive.
- Your current credit card accounts: Most lenders will look at your average credit card limits and overall available credit when assigning you a new credit limit. Card companies may offer you a lower limit if they feel you already have too much credit. And some credit card issuers will cap the amount of credit you can get from their company. So, if you already have credit card accounts with an issuer and you apply for a new card, your credit limit may be restricted by the spending limits on your other cards with that issuer.
Since each issuer has its own ways to determine credit limits, it’s impossible to predict what kind of limit you’ll get when you apply for a new card. But, as you can see, the length of your credit history is an important factor — and, according to the data, it’s also a pretty good estimator. The numbers show a strong correlation between average credit card limits and age.
What is the average credit card limit?
According to Experian data from the second quarter of 2019, the average credit card limit in America is $31,015. This is a $834 increase from 2018 and a $3,049 increase over the previous five years.
While average credit card limits have increased overall, the data also shows some more specific trends in credit limits when it came to age. Cardholders in the baby boomer generation are enjoying the highest credit limits, with Generation X coming in second. Unsurprisingly, the youngest generation — Generation Z — have the lowest credit limits, likely due to their limited credit histories.
Average American credit limits, by generation
Here’s a look at how generation fared in Experian’s report on average credit card limits (ages in parenthesis):
- Silent generation (74+): $32,338
- Baby boomers (55-73): $39,919
- Generation X (39-54): $33,357
- Millennials (23-38): $20,647
- Generation Z (18-22): $8,062
Although the data certainly supports the idea that your age — and, thus, the length of your credit history — plays a big role in your credit limits, something else can be extrapolated. The decrease in average credit card limits from the baby boomer generation to the silent generation may be a result of the impact of income on spending limits, as the oldest generation is mostly out of the workforce.
How to increase your credit limits
If you look at the average credit card limit and think your own cards aren’t up to muster, don’t worry. Unless you’re seeing problems in your utilization, you probably don’t need to give your credit limits much consideration.
However, if you are concerned about your utilization rate and think higher credit limits would be helpful, there are some things you can do:
- Ask your card issuer for an increase. You can do this online with most issuers, or you can give them a call. Depending on the company, a request for a credit limit increase may result in a hard credit inquiry.
- Improve your scores: One good way to show your credit card issuer that you can handle a higher credit limit is to improve your credit scores. The best method of increasing your score will depend on your individual credit history, but start by paying all of your bills on time, limiting your new credit accounts, and keeping your balances low.
- Boost your income: A larger income shows you have a better ability to repay your debt. If your income has increased recently, you can update your income status with your issuer, which may result in a higher credit limit.
Of course, there is also one final thing you can do to improve your credit limits: wait. As your credit history grows, you’ll likely start to qualify for higher credit limits. Some card issuers may also increase your limits automatically if you maintain your credit card accounts in good standing.
Don’t stress over your limits
It’s all too easy to compare yourself with the average credit card limit, but that number is just that — a number, and one that hides a lot of nuance and variables. Overall, it’s more important to think of your credit limits in terms of how much available credit you really need, rather than how that limit compares to the average credit card limits of other cardholders.
View more information: https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/credit-cards/average-credit-card-limit/