Asking a lender to lower your credit limit is a mixed bag. It is potentially a wise move if you struggle with spending discipline. However, it is usually not a good move from a credit rating standpoint.
Process and Ramifications
As a card holder you can contact the credit card provider to request either a limit increase or reduction. If you decide a reduction is the right move, simply call the customer service number or send an email. Most credit card providers are fine with a reduction request, though you naturally can't reduce your limit below your current balance. Some providers automatically raise a borrower's limit after a period of responsible borrowing. If you don't want this to happen, you may have to alert the provider not to increase the limit without your approval.
A primary reason to lower your limit is to keep your spending under control. If you currently have a $5,000 limit and you are concerned about using it all, a reduction to $3,000 minimizes your borrowing capacity. While the best long-term solution is to simply curb your spending, a lower borrowing cap helps in the short-term. Plus, a lower limit may prevent excessive impulse purchases that you might make if the credit were available.
Credit Score Drawbacks
From a credit rating standpoint, reducing a credit limit isn't usually a good move. In fact, many customers try to get limit increases to boost their scores. Your credit utilization ratio is the second-most important factor in a credit score, according to Experian. Lowering a limit on a card with a balance significantly increases your credit utilization ratio on that card, which hurts your credit score. For example, a $1,000 balance on a card with a $10,000 limit equals a 10 percent ratio, while a $1,000 balance on a card with a $5,000 limit equals a 20 percent ratio. It's better to have a low ratio than a high ratio,
Card with No Balance
The impact of a lower limit isn't as great on a card with no balance because the utilization ratio remains zero, regardless of the limit. Therefore, lowering your limit from $7,000 to $4,000 has no effect on your single-card ratio. According to a column on the Experian website, "because you have a zero balance, lowering the credit limit will not cause an increase in the utilization rate, so (it) might not affect your credit scores." If you do make a purchase on the card, however, you're better off having a higher limit than a lower one.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.