Which Credit Card Issuers Do a Hard Inquiry for a Credit Limit Increase?

One quick note from our previous post: if you are offered a credit limit increase and there's not a hard inquiry, then take it. However, if there is a hard inquiry, then you may be better off applying for a new credit card for the signup bonus. 

Taking a hard inquiry at for a credit limit increase is like ordering tap water at a restaurant and paying for a refill. If the first glass of tap water is free, take it. When they try charging you for a refill that should be free, you might as well order anything else except for water. 

The data points in this post are gathered from MyFico.com and Reddit forums. h/t Doctor of Credit. We're going to cover the credit limit increase rules for most major banks.

American Express

American Express does a soft pull, and you can request up to 3x your current credit limit. More about American Express at the end of the post. 

Chase Bank

Any credit limit increase will alway lead to a hard inquiry. 

Barclays

If you initiate the credit limit increase, there will be a hard inquiry. However, Barclays will usually automatically increase the credit limit every six months. If you're not in a rush, it makes sense to wait for them to issue the credit limit increase automatically. 

Citi Bank

It can be either a hard or soft inquiry. There's not enough data to know for sure, but the good thing is they tell you before inquiring. When you call in to request an increase, they will notify you if it will be a hard or soft inquiry. 

Bank of America

Credit limit increases typically lead to a hard inquiry, but there are a few exceptions. If you log into your online account and there's a special offer, then it will be a soft inquiry. It will mention that there is not a hard inquiry. 

Interestingly, even if you reallocate your credit between two Bank of America cards, it will still result in a hard inquiry unless you call them to do it. 

Wells Fargo

It can be a hard or soft inquiry. Call in to ask which one it will be. 

Capital One

A credit limit increase is a soft inquiry, and you can make a new request every six months.

Discover

Discover can be either a hard or soft inquiry, depending on if you're requesting a low or high credit limit increase. They have an online tool that can lead to either result. For example, if you have a card that has a $2,000 limit and you want an increase to $5,000, the tool will either tell you it's fine and grant it or tell you a lower number, then it will be a soft inquiry. If you don't accept the offer or you request a higher limit, then it will be a hard inquiry. 

Risky behavior

Be aware that if you ask for too high of a credit limit increase with Amex, it may lead to a financial review. A financial review is when Amex views your account as high risk. They will freeze your account and review each transaction. During the review, they will ask you to send a tax form that allows them to see your tax returns for the past 2-3 years, as well as employment information. 

If you choose not to request, they will close all your accounts. Again, for most people, it will be okay, but it's still a hassle to go through the process. 

One of the factors that lead to a financial review is if you have a credit card that has more than a $20,000 credit limit. Let's say you start off with a credit card with a $10,000 credit limit, and you make two requests to increase the limit to $30,000; it will automatically trigger a financial review.

Another instance that would trigger a financial review is if your total credit limit with Amex is more than $35,000. For example, if you have three credit cards with a total credit limit of $40,000, it will trigger the review. Amex charge cards are not considered in this equation because they technically don't have a spending limit. 

If you do need to spend a lot of money with Amex, my recommendation is to get a charge card like the Platinum or Gold card because there is not a spending limit.