What's a Good Credit Limit On a First Credit Card?

A teenage girl sits in front of a laptop holding a credit card
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Getting approved for your first credit card is can be tough. You have to find a credit card issuer who will approve you even though you've never had credit before. If you've already found a credit card and you've been approved, congratulations! If this is your first credit card, your credit limit may be smaller than you expected. Don't worry, it's perfectly normal to have a small credit limit when you're first starting out with credit.

Why Your First Credit Limit May Be Low

Credit history is one of the factors credit card issuers use to decide an applicant's credit limit. A person with a history of managing credit well will have a better chance of getting approved for bigger credit limit. However, because you're a brand new credit card user, you don't have a history of using credit cards responsibly. Your credit card issuer doesn’t know how much credit you can handle and so they’ll usually start you off with a small limit. If it turns out you're not quite ready for credit, you'll only cost the credit card company a few hundred dollars rather than thousands.

Your first credit limit may be as low as $100 if your first credit card is a retail store credit card. You might be approved for a slightly larger credit limit of $300 or $500 if your first credit card is a major Visa or MasterCard. It’s unlikely that your first credit limit will be greater than $1,500 unless you already have an established credit history, for example, if you have a mortgage or car loan on your credit report already or if you've been an authorized user on a credit card with a positive history.

Managing a Low Credit Limit

Don’t be disappointed by your initial credit limit. It’s better to start small until you’re used to handling credit. As you demonstrate you can use your credit card responsibly, e.g. pay your bill on time and refrain from maxing out your credit card, you’ll qualify for more credit over time.

Some credit card issuers will increase your credit limit automatically after several months of timely payments. Others only increase your credit limit upon request. Wait until you’ve made your credit card payments on time for at least six months before you request a credit limit increase.

How to Get a Bigger First Credit Limit

You may be able to get a higher credit limit by applying jointly with someone, a parent or spouse, who already has an established credit history and good income.

Or, if you apply for a secured credit card, you can essentially choose your own credit limit by making a security deposit in the amount of the credit limit you want. For example, for a $2,000 credit limit, you would make a $2,000 security deposit. With a secured credit card, your security deposit is returned to you as long as you keep the account in good standing.

No matter what credit limit you start out with, there’s always a chance for an increase as long as you’re not charging too much (less than 30% of your credit limit is best), you’re making your payments on time each month, and you're managing the rest of your credit well.

When you request a credit limit increase, your credit card issuer will review your account history, your credit report, and your current monthly income.

If these three factors are favorable, you have a good chance of having your credit limit increase request approved.