Americans have access to a quick and virtually effortless tactic to raise their credit scores, but the vast majority don't take advantage of the opportunity.
A new survey from Bankrate.com found that 78 percent of credit card customers who call their credit card issuers to ask for an increase of their credit limit are granted one, but only 28 percent of cardholders bother to take the initiative and ask, passing up a chance to improve their credit score with little more than a phone call.
All other things being equal, and assuming you resist the urge to pile more debt onto that new credit limit, a higher limit will improve your credit score by increasing what's called your "credit utilization ratio," which is the size of your balance as a fraction of how much credit you have available.
The likelihood that a credit limit increase will be granted varies based on demographic characteristics, Bankrate found.
Being young appears to be the biggest hurdle: While a little less than half (46 percent) of cardholders under the age of 30 had requests for a credit limit increase granted, 81 percent of those 30 and older were given the green light for a higher limit.
People who live in rural areas also have a harder time getting increases. While 69 percent of rural residents got higher credit limits when they asked, that was lower than both the 76 percent of suburbanites and 82 percent of urban dwellers who successfully got credit limit increases.
Income also plays a role: 60 percent of cardholders with incomes of less than $30,000 were granted increases, while those with incomes between $30,000 and $49,999 were successful 84 percent of the time.
Somewhat surprisingly, that's higher than the 76 percent of cardholders with an annual household income between $50,000 and $74,999 who obtain increases. As might be expected, the wealthiest Americans — those with incomes of $75,000 or higher — had the most luck getting credit limit increases: Among this group, 86 percent of requests were successful.