So, how much is it gonna cost you?

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Going over your credit card limit will get you some grief, but it's less painful than it was before passage of the CARD Act. Thanks to added regulation, over-limit fees have been almost eliminated. Credit card companies are less likely to hit you with a fee (a new Pew Research study reports that only 11 percent of cards charge fees for going over your limits).

However, they are more likely to deny the transaction that would put you over the limit. Thanks to the CARD Act, transactions that put you over the limit won't go through unless you have "opted in" to allow those transaction to go through. In those cases, the company is allowed to hit you with the fee, about $30 (which is lower than it was in 2009 before the Act was passed).

It's the utilization that gets your score

A big part of your credit score (about one-third) is derived from the proportion of available credit you are actually using. If you have $1,000 in available credit, using less than $300 of it will help keep your score healthy. The assumption is that you are managing your money well because you don't need to max out your cards. The greater your utilization, the lower your score, all things being equal.

What's the difference between 99% and 101% utilization?

You can check this out yourself at MyFICO's credit score estimator too. Answer the questions and it estimates your score. I ran some hypothetical scenarios through it and found that regardless of credit score, when you go from 99% utilization to 100%+ utilization, your score drops 5 points. Once your utilization drops, your score increases. Going over the limit isn't like a late payment that stays on your history for years.

Improve your score by raising your limit

Assuming that you're smart enough to refrain from spending if your limit is increased (nod your head yes), you may be able to get a fast fix for your credit. Credit limits are driven by your credit score and your income. If you are earning more than you were when you applied for your credit card, and / or your credit score has improved since then, you might be able to convince your card issuer to increase your limit. This would effectively drop your utilization. Here's a sample of one issuer's matrix it uses to set limits, courtesy of the Credit Karma blog.