Originally published by Nicole Dieker on Bankrate.com
There are a lot of really excellent credit cards out there, offering rewards on everything from travel to groceries. Opening a new credit card can help you earn cash back on everyday purchases, transfer and pay down a balance, turn a sign-up bonus into a free flight and even boost your credit score.
Of course, just because you want to apply for more than one of today’s best credit cards doesn’t mean you should apply for multiple credit cards all at once. In most cases, waiting between credit card applications is better for your credit history — and can even improve your chances of getting accepted.
How long should you wait between credit card applications? While there’s no hard-and-fast answer, we have some expert advice that can help you make smart decisions about how often to apply for a new credit card. We’ll also explain why applying for too many credit cards at once can hurt your credit, and take a look at some credit card application restrictions that might prevent your application from getting approved.
How often should you apply for a new credit card?
While the number of credit cards you should have is up to you, and you can apply for new lines of credit as often as you want, it’s a good idea to wait at least 90 days between new credit card applications — and it’s better if you can wait a full six months. Waiting between credit card applications helps protect your credit score from the negative effects of too many credit inquiries, and it also helps ensure that you don’t run afoul of credit card application restrictions. Capital One, for example, is known for limiting applicants to one new credit card every six months, so if you apply for a new Capital One card before the six-month restriction is up, your application will likely be rejected.
How long does the credit card application process take?
If you apply for a credit card online, the credit card application process usually takes only a few minutes to complete. How long does it take to get approved for a credit card? In many cases, you’ll learn right away whether you have been accepted or rejected — though in some cases you’ll be asked to provide additional financial information or proof of identity before the lender can make its decision.
If you are accepted for an instant use credit card like the Apple Card or the Uber Visa Card, you’ll be able to start using your new credit card right away. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait for the card to arrive in the mail, which could take 7-10 business days.
If your credit card application is declined, the lender is required to provide an explanation. This is commonly called an adverse action notice, and it can arrive via email or by letter. Expect your adverse action notice within 7-10 days of your credit application, and use it to understand why you received a credit denial. If your credit score wasn’t high enough to meet the qualifications, for example, you might want to take some time to build your credit score before your next application.
Why should you wait in between credit card applications?
There are two good reasons to wait between credit card applications. The first reason is because 10 percent of your FICO credit score is based on a factor known as “new credit.” When you apply for a credit card, the lender conducts a credit inquiry (often called a hard credit check or hard pull) on your credit report. Your credit score generally dips after each credit check, though it should bounce back fairly quickly. If there are too many recent credit inquiries on your account, your credit score could take a more significant hit. Why? Because lenders view a lot of recent credit inquiries as a signal that you might be planning on taking out a lot of debt — and you might not be able to pay that debt off.
The other reason to wait before applying for new credit has to do with credit card application restrictions. Some credit card issuers automatically decline credit card applications if you’ve already opened a certain number of credit cards within a specific time period. Chase, for example, won’t accept applicants who have opened more than five credit cards in the past 24 months. If you want to give yourself a better chance of being accepted, waiting between credit card applications is a smart move.
How many credit cards can you apply for in a day?
You can apply for as many credit cards as you want during a single day. There is no limit on the number of credit card applications you can turn in. However, applying for a lot of credit cards on the same day is not a good idea. Since your credit score drops after every new credit inquiry, applying for multiple credit cards in a single day could hurt your credit score more than you realize.
Plus, when you apply for more than one credit card on the same day, the credit card issuers can see that you are sending out multiple applications at once. If you have excellent credit, this might not be an issue. But if your credit is less than excellent, those lenders might be less likely to accept your applications. Instead, they’ll be wondering why you need so much credit all at once, and whether you’ll be able to manage it responsibly.
Credit issuers with card application restrictions
Most credit issuers do not formally announce restrictions on how often you can apply for new credit cards — but that doesn’t mean those restrictions don’t exist. Sites like The Points Guy use firsthand reports about acceptances and rejections to uncover when a credit card issuer is more likely to decline your application, which provides a lot of insight into when you should apply for new credit. Here’s some information The Points Guy gathered about restrictions for different issuers.
American Express recently announced that it was limiting cardholders to no more than four American Express credit cards and no more than 10 Amex charge cards. American Express also reportedly limits cardholders to no more than two card applications in a single 90-day period.
Bank of America
According to cardholder reports, Bank of America uses a 2/3/4 rule: you can only be approved for two cards within a 30-day period, three cards within a 12-month period, and four cards within a 24-month period. Unlike Chase’s famous 5/24 rule, the 2/3/4 rule only applies to Bank of America credit cards — so if you’ve taken out four cards from other credit issuers in the past year, you can still apply for a new card with Bank of America.
Capital One reportedly limits cardholders to one new Capital One credit card every six months. You can also only have two Capital One personal credit cards open at any given time, though co-branded Capital One cards and Capital One business credit cards don’t fall under this restriction.
Chase’s 5/24 rule is probably the best-known credit card application restriction. If you have taken out more than five new credit cards in the past 24 months — regardless of whether those are Chase credit cards or cards with another issuer — Chase will not accept you for a new credit card. The 5/24 rule is in place to prevent credit card churning and to ensure that Chase’s top travel credit cards are less likely to fall into the hands of people who only want to claim a valuable sign-up bonus.
Citi only allows one new Citi credit card application every eight days, and you cannot apply for more than two Citi credit cards within a 65-day window. You are also limited to one Citi business credit card application every 90 days.
Cardholders are reportedly limited to one new Discover credit card per year, and no more than two Discover cards at any given time.
According to the terms and conditions listed on many Wells Fargo credit cards, you may not qualify for a new Wells Fargo card if you’ve opened a Wells Fargo card in the past six months. Wells Fargo may also limit the total number of card accounts you can open.
These credit card application restrictions reveal that some types of credit card rejections may be based on nothing more than bad timing. If your credit score is high enough for the credit cards you’re hoping to open, it’s smart to wait the minimum amount of time required to give you the best chance of acceptance.
Although waiting three to six months between credit card applications might feel frustrating, waiting is better than applying, getting declined and losing credit score points due to the hard inquiry. If you’ve already got a top rewards credit card in your wallet, try using your waiting period to see how many rewards you can earn and redeem — and if you’d rather focus on credit-building than rewards-building, use the time to see how close you can get to a perfect credit score.