3 Signs You're About to Max Out Your Credit Card

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on March 31, 2021

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A female cashier at a restaurant swiping a credit card in a mobile card reader attached to a tablet.

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Maxing out a credit card is bad news. Here are some red flags that could mean you're about to do just that.

Have you ever whipped out a credit card at a restaurant or checkout counter, only to have it declined? It's embarrassing, to say the least, but if you max out your card's spending limit, that's what will happen. And you're more likely to max out your card if these things apply to you.

1. You never check your balance

One benefit to using credit cards is that you generally get online account access once you sign up. That means you have the option to log on and see what your balance looks like throughout the month. If that's something you never do despite using your card regularly, then you're more likely to run the risk of hitting your spending limit.

2. You charge absolutely everything on it

Using a credit card for regular purchases means racking up rewards points, so the more items you charge, the more rewards you stand to accrue. But if you're the type who charges pretty much every expense on a credit card, from your $100 cable bill to those occasional $3 convenience store purchases, you may eventually run into a situation where you've maxed out. This especially holds true if you don't -- wait for it -- keep tabs on your balance during the month.

3. You don't have a high limit to begin with

There are a number of factors that go into determining your credit card limit -- your income level, your payment history, and the number of credit cards you have in your name, for example. If you get assigned a lower spending limit off the bat, it could put you at risk of maxing out, especially during times when you're forced to charge surprise bills.

How to avoid maxing out a credit card

If you'd rather avoid the horror of having a credit card declined, you'll need to do a good job of staying below your limit. To this end, pledge to check up on your outstanding charges once a week. If you see your balance start to climb, you'll know to ease up on spending.

Similarly, you may want to divvy up your expenses so you're paying for some in cash and not charging every little thing on your credit card. To be clear, this isn't necessarily a step you need to take if you can trust yourself to monitor your balance diligently, but if you're not able to do that, it's the next best bet.

Finally, contact your credit card issuer and see if you can get your spending limit increased. If your credit score has improved since you first applied for your card, or if your income has gone up, then you may be given a higher spending limit. Even if those things don't apply, it doesn't hurt to ask. If you've never been late with a minimum payment and have been an account holder in good standing for a year or longer, you may get some leeway with your credit limit. And that could, in turn, help you avoid a scenario where you truly go overboard.

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