How do credit limits work?

How much you borrow using your credit card depends on your credit limit. Here’s what you need to know about credit card limits and how to use your card responsibly to get better credit.

What is a credit limit?

Your credit limit is the maximum amount you can borrow on your credit card at any one time.

For example, if your credit limit is €1,500 you can owe up to that amount on your card at any time before incurring extra charges.

When you apply for a credit card you’ll be asked how much you want your credit limit to be, but you won’t necessarily get the amount you requested. You will only find out what your credit limit is when your application has been approved.

How is your credit limit calculated?

When you apply for a credit card, your bank or credit card issuer will check your credit history to help decide whether to approve your application and what your credit limit will be.

You can find out about your credit record in our guide How to check your credit record.

Credit limits are also based on other factors including:

  • Income and outgoings, e.g salary income and regular expenditure
  • Existing credit commitments, e.g. other loans, overdrafts, credit cards
  • Credit score, e.g. your repayment and previous borrowing history

Each bank or card issuer has its own lending policy, but all use the Central Credit Register to check your credit history.

Increasing your credit limit

If you want to increase your credit limit you can make a request to your credit card provider, but you may need to complete a fresh application and check your credit record.

Managing your existing credit responsibly can help build your credit score and improve your chances of being approved for a bigger credit limit.

After you’ve demonstrated that you can reliably make repayments for up to six months, it is worth asking your card issuer to increase your credit limit.

How to use your credit card responsibly

  • Set up a direct debit: this will ensure you automatically repay funds each month.
  • Repay the maximum: if you can afford to pay the full balance each month, do so.
  • Set up text alerts: some banks will send out alerts if you are near your credit limit.
  • Stay below your credit limit: lenders tends to favour spending within 30% of your credit limit.
  • Download the app: many banks and card issuers now have an app. This can help you keep tabs on your spending and manage your credit repayments more easily.

What happens if I exceed my credit limit?

If you spend more than your credit limit, your bank or card issuer will charge you an overlimit fee.

This fee varies between provider, but as example, it’s €12.70 with An Post and €7.00 with AIB, and will be applied every month you exceed your credit limit.

Exceeding your credit limit will also have a negative affect on your credit score, which could make future borrowing more expensive or harder to get.

Credit card limit FAQs

Can I decrease my credit limit?

Yes, you can request a decrease in your credit limit, as long as your new limit isn’t below the balance still outstanding on your account.

Also, bear in mind that lenders prefer to see you stay well within your credit limit, so lowering it may make you look less creditworthy to future lenders.

Does my credit limit affect my credit record?

Your credit limit will not affect your credit score, but your spending behaviour within the limit may affect your credit history if you fall behind on repayments.

Lenders view you more favourably if you stay well within your credit limit. It’s suggested a good threshold is around 25% of your credit limit each month.

If you go over your credit limit on a regular basis or miss repayments, your record may well affect your credit score.

If I go over my credit limit, will it affect my credit score?

It depends on the card issuer and whether they report it to the Central Credit Register (CCR). If it is a one-off occurrence and the breach is quickly rectified it is unlikely to affect your credit score, however, you will be a charged an overlimit fee.

However, if you repeatedly exceed your credit limit, it is viewed as a red flag by your lender. If you default on your payments, the CCR will be notified and your credit score will be negatively affected.