Q&A: Lowering credit limits

Dear Liz: You recently answered a question about a woman who asked her credit card issuer to lower her credit limits. While it’s true that lowering your credit limit on a card can have a negative effect on your credit scores, it may be needed to leave credit room for new cards, as your total credit across cards vs. your annual income is considered. And of course your credit score won’t suffer when balances are paid down before the statement date.

Answer: Credit scoring formulas calculate your credit utilization based on the amount of credit you’re using on the day that the card issuer reports your account to the credit bureaus each month. That’s usually, but not always, the balance as of the statement closing date. Making a payment just before that date often lowers your credit utilization and can help your scores.

So yes, making a payment before the statement closing date can offset the negative impact of lowered limits. However, it would be rather foolish for an individual to request lower limits thinking that a credit card issuer might prefer them to have less credit. Typically, healthy credit limits are a sign you’re managing your credit well. Even if a credit card issuer might look askance at your available credit, you won’t know exactly where to draw that line. Credit card issuers have different policies on how they set credit limits, and they typically don’t broadcast how those decisions are made.

Q&A: Credit scores and card limits

Dear Liz: I have a 780 credit score but noted that one of my cards doesn’t count in the percent of credit used. I have had this card for 44 years and I could charge a couple hundred thousand dollars on a single purchase if I chose to, yet credit scoring formulas don’t figure in the “credit I have available” from Amex. Seems unfair?

Answer: As credit cards with six-figure limits are rare, what you’re describing is probably a charge card. Unlike credit cards, charge cards don’t have preset spending limits. They also don’t allow you to carry a balance from month to month, typically.

The “percent of credit used” you mention is called credit utilization, and it’s a large factor in credit scoring formulas. Credit utilization measures how much of your available credit you’re using, and the bigger the gap between your credit limits and your balances, the better.

But the credit utilization calculation can’t be made if one of the numbers — the credit limit — is missing. The only way the formulas would be able to calculate credit utilization in that case would be to assume that whatever amount you charged is equal to your credit limit, and that would be disastrous for your scores.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Mortgage trends for the rest of 2020. Also in the news: Why a credit card company can lower your limit, why you might not want to zero out every credit card, and how to know if your 401(k) fees are too high.

Mortgage Trends for the Rest of 2020
Lower rates but fewer homes.

Can a Credit Card Company Lower My Credit Limit?

Why you might not want to zero out every credit card
Why 1% is better than 0%.

How to Know if Your 401(k) Fees Are Too High
Start comparing costs.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Is it okay to never have a credit card? Also in the news: How to organize important documents simply and safely, can a credit card company lower your credit limit, and how to try and prevent your eviction.

Is It OK to Never Have a Credit Card?
Using credit cards responsibly is one way to build your credit history — but it’s not the only way.

How to Organize Important Documents Simply and Safely
What you should keep and for how long.

Can a Credit Card Company Lower My Credit Limit?
Cardholders are seeing an increase in reductions.

How to Try and Prevent Your Eviction
23 million renting families could lose their homes by September 30.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 4 ways to ride the rising interest rates wave. Also in the news: Why you should set your own credit card limits, reasons why credit isn’t as boring as it sounds, and more than 1 million student loan borrowers are in default.

Fed Rate Hike: 4 Ways to Ride Rising Interest Rate Wave
Only the third increase since the 2008 financial crisis.

Set Your Own Credit Card Limits and Improve Your Life
Knowing your limits.

3 Reasons Credit Isn’t as Boring as It Sounds
It’s about more than just cards.

More than 1 million borrowers defaulted on their student loans last year
The amount owed by borrowers has increased 17%.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

taxesToday’s top story: How to save money on your taxes by deducting work-related expenses. Also in the news: Learning about financial therapy, decreasing credit card limits, and financial advice for baby boomers.

How IRS Form 2106 Can Save You Money on Taxes
Deducting the work expenses your employer doesn’t cover.

What You Should Know About Financial Therapy
Getting to the deeper root of money issues.

The Average Credit Card Limit Is Dropping: What It Means for You
Lower limits across the board.

Five Easy Pieces of Financial Advice for Baby Boomers
Planning for the road ahead.

5 Reasons Every Boomer Should Stick to a Budget
More important now more than ever.