01-14-2013 10:43 AM - edited 03-30-2013 10:19 AM
One of the most popular topics of discussion on the forum is the American Express 3X CLI. Here is a small guide I put together to alleviate some misconceptions based on personal experiences and discussions here and other boards. Please feel free to suggest modifications or enhancements.
Please don't copy/paste the information to other boards. Linking here is fine.
What is the 3X CLI?
American Express is one of the most sought after credit cards in the market. They are also typically one of more generous companies with respect to credit limits outside of the credit unions. For folks who do not qualify for NFCU and other credit unions known to issue high credit limits despite low FICO scores and or moderate credit history, the best way to get high(er) CLs is to first get accepted into American Express and then apply for an increased credit limit upto 3 times the existing approved limit after a certain minimum number of days have passed (discussed in details below).
This really comes in handy when the initial approved limit is on the lower side (example $2,000) due to internal American Express risk score models, mostly for folks starting out in their credit journey or with other risky credit/income factors. After completing the "60" day magic number of the account being open and in good standing, one can request an increased credit limit upto 3X the initial limit starting with the 61st day, meaning someone who got approved for $2,000 could request that the new credit limit be $2,000 x 3 = $6,000, someone who got approved for $3,000 initially could request the new credit limit be $3,000 x 3 = $9,000 and so on.
Why is the 3X CLI Important?
Credit Utilization is one of the most important components of the FICO score (30% per official wording from FICO).Given the same amount of spending, with higher available credit, utilization is lower and hence FICO scores are higher. But more importantly this is a gateway to getting approved for other prime cards/rewards cards like Visa Signature, MasterCard World, points, cashback etc offered by various lenders like Chase, Citi, BoA, US Bank etc who typically issue them if they see an existing high limit card. Higher limits from one lender attracts higher limits from others up until the overall available credit reaches a certain threshold.
No other lender is known to have a 3X CLI policy and that too as early as the 61st day. One may be able to procure a CLI from other lenders but typically it is a hard inquiry or sometimes flat out denial because the account is considered too new. Amex is the only lender that offers this.
More recently though GEMB issued credit cards are also known to get generous increases (sometimes even > 3X initial limits) via a Soft Pull. This policy is relatively new but widely reported to be successful across different boards.
Is the 3X CLI automatic or guaranteed?
Most definitely not. The components factored into a CLI approval or denial are not published but widely accepted to be similar to the FICO models. Amex also asks for income and
rent during the CLI request process. Other factors remaining same, chances of a CLI approval are higher if the account has always been in good standing e.g lower utilization, low risk spending patterns, on time payments etc. The 3X CLI request has to be manually initiated by the account holder after becoming eligible.
Will there be a hard inquiry when requesting 3X CLI?
Fortunately not. American Express initiates soft pulls on Experian throughout the life of an open account with random frequency. During the first 60 days, it is not uncommon for Amex to have soft pulled at least 3-4 times. The CLI approval or denial will be based on the last soft pull before the CLI request and other factors like income/
rent etc. A new hard pull or soft pull is not initiated when requesting the 3X CLI. If in doubt, get a copy of your Experian report and see when Amex issued a soft pull to gauge account statistics at that snapshot and request CLI accordingly. If there are concerns that the overall utilization or Amex utilization was high during the last soft pull, it might be worth waiting a few more days and then applying for CLI after Amex has issued a new soft pull.
When does an acccount become eligible for CLI?
Amex does NOT increase an account's credit limit during the first 60 days after it has been OPENED, or for at least 6 months from the last credit limit increase. The key word here is OPENED aka the account creation date. There are a few ways to find out the exact date the account was opened.
a) Call the number on the back of the card and simply ask the friendly customer service rep. There is nothing to be worried about here or get nervous. You are not asking for a CLI to the rep, but simply the day the account was opened. This can be done during card activation itself or any point later. Some friendly CSRs will also calculate and mention the first eligible date for CLI (61st day since account opening). If they are not aware of the first eligible date, simply ask for account opening/creation date and calculate it yourself.
b) "Date Opened" field on your Equifax or TransUnion credit report. Both EQ and TU report the account opened day and month accurately (Equifax started doing this recently). 3rd party credit pullers may or maynot pull the date opened field accurately, the official credit reports are the only reliable source. It is important to note that the year field in "Date Opened" is affected by your American Express Member Since date, so may not reflect the year the card was originally opened. The only downside is one has to wait for the card to report to EQ and TU first, but Amex is usually very prompt to report.
c) Before the first statement has been cut, the account opened date is reflected under the Recent Charges field next to the "Since". Example in this pic, the account opened date is Jan 08. The "Since" field changes every statement period as it starts tracking the spending for that statement, so it is a good idea to get the account open date information using this method as early as possible. Existing Amex card members with an online profile are at an advantage to use this method because any new approved cards show in the profile before the card has been delivered physically, displaying several key account details like the account open date, first statement closing date, last 5 digits of card etc. First time Amex card members should try to setup the online profile as early as possible after physically receiving the card(s) to take advantage of this method as the first statement can sometimes close very soon after receiving the card(s).
Example calculation of 1st eligibility date taking the above screenshot as an example (Account opened : 01/08/2013). The account will complete 60 days on March 9, 2013 based on the following calculations:
Number of days by January 31 : 23
Number of days by February 28 : 28
Number of days by March 9 : 9
Total days open by March 9 : 60
In this example the first eligible date for CLI is March 10, provided there have been no other CLIs for any other accounts in the last 6 months, as the 60 days are completed by March 9th,
How to request the CLI?
a) Calling the number on the back of the card. The number is unique to each credit product and is automated. Usually the option to request a credit limit increase is option #4 or #5, or if you are comfortable a CSR can take the application and let you know approval/denial once they submit. If you are denied, they may not be able to give the specific reason and you have to wait for an email or a letter in the mail outlining the reasons.
b) Logging into your account. Click on "Profile and Preferences -> More Options -> Manage Credit Limit" under Account Management.
It is also available by clicking "Manage My Account"(Toggled to "HIDE ACCOUNT OPTIONS" in the pic below) next to the "Outstanding Balance/Available Credit" on main page
In both cases you want to request the new credit limit itself (e.g $6,000 if initial limit is $2,000). Don't calculate the increase ($6.000 - $2,000 = $4,000) yourself and mention it.
What happens if you are denied CLI?
If you jumped the gun before the 60 days/6 months rule, the reason for denial is considered ineligibility. If that is the case you can reapply after the original and correct 60day/6month timeline. You do not have to wait an additional 90 days, so the clock doesn't get reset. If you were eligible and got denied due to other factors, then you are ineligible to reapply for another 90 days since the denial date.
If you get the message after requesting CLI, that a decision will be mailed within 7-10 days, it most likely means that the CLI has been denied. There is an outside chance that the letter that comes from Amex may ask for a signed 4506T in order to give further consideration to the CLI request(details below) but in 99% of the cases it is a letter outlining the reasons for denial. It also provides the true FICO score from the bureau that was used in the decision making process. Most of the time it is Experian FICO, but Amex is known to use EQ and or TU in rare circumstances. Sometimes the reason(s) for denial is also sent via email immediately after the CLI request in addition to the letter in mail.
Can you request 3X CLI again after 6 months since last CLI?
Absolutely. There have been lots of success stories where people have gone from $2,000 to $6,000 to $18,000 because their income and credit profile supported the increase request. It is generally tougher to get the full 3X CLI after 6 months on the same account since the first CLI however. Even if a 3X CLI is requested, Amex may counter offer a partial increase which you can choose to accept or refuse. It is a good idea to not short change yourself and ask for a partial increase from the beginning because Amex system is smart enough to offer and approve a partial CLI if eligible.
Amex may request documentation to support a CLI to a CL above $25K, including a request for a 4506T. Accounts are not suspended, nothing is mandatory. They may ask for documents, and if you don't present them, they may deny the CLI. More details below.
Additional Documentation/4506T for certain CLI Requests
For certain CLI requests, Amex sends a letter requesting a signed 4506T from the card holder. Amex can then obtain tax return transcripts from IRS in order to verify income. Here is a sample tax return transcript which shows what kind of information can be obtained via a signed 4506T. A tax return transcript has far more details than just income and hence is considered very intrusive by many. If Amex does not receive the signed 4506T within 30 days from the date on the letter, then no further consideration is given to the CLI request and a letter of denial is sent. No CLI can be requested for 90 days from the date in the denial letter. Sending back the signed 4506T also doesn't guarantee a CLI approval as Amex will also evaluate the usual credit factors via soft pulls on Experian in addition to income verification. Income to overall credit available across all accounts(amex and non-amex) is one of the key factors for Amex Internal Risk Score. Lower risk score improves chances of getting approved for the CLI.
The following often (but not always) are potential reasons why Amex asks for 4506T for a CLI request.
It is important to note that this whole process,although inconvenient/complicated/intrusive, is different from the dreaded Amex Financial Review. During an Amex FR, all accounts are suspended and sending back the signed 4506T is mandatory in order to be considered for lifting the suspension. For business accounts, even more documentation is required during an FR. Also an FR can happen at any time and not necessarily after requesting an increase in credit limit.
Some generic Amex CLI Guidelines
01/13/2013: Initial document. Changes incorporated via posts from bradpitt (GEMB), OptimasPrime (cropped pic) and Walt_K (4506T documentation)
01/14/2013: Minor edits in formatting and ready for sticky.
01/26/2013: a) Added section "Some Generic CLI Guidelines") b) Added pic for another way to access CLI online c) Modified verbiage in "What happens if denied CLI".
03/29/2013: Modified verbiage on method (c) to find account eligibility date, corrected some typos, added new 4506T section, updated generic CLI guidelines.
03/30/2013: "Letter in 7-10 business days" interpretation added in "What happens if you are denied CLI?" section thanks to Revelate
01-14-2013 10:52 AM - edited 01-14-2013 03:05 PM
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