Menu

How Often Should You Apply for a Credit Card? The Optimal Timing

Credit Cards
Published: 12 months ago, Last Updated: 7 months ago
Daniel Brown
Writer: Daniel Brown
Listen minutes

Are you ready to dive into the world of credit cards but feeling a little overwhelmed by all the options? You’re not alone. 

In fact, there are over 500 million credit cards in the U.S. alone. And it’s no wonder, considering credit cards come with rewards, cashback offers, and the potential to build credit.

However, there’s a catch: applying for too many credit cards too quickly can backfire, damaging your credit score and future prospects. 

As a result, many people wonder, “How often should I apply for a credit card? And what happens if I apply for too many?” It’s a fine line between reaping the rewards and damaging your financial future.

Fear not! We’re here to guide you through this tricky terrain, answering those burning questions and providing you with the knowledge to make smart decisions. In this blog post, we’ll unravel the mysteries surrounding credit card applications, including the risks of applying for too many cards and the potential consequences on your credit score.

How Long to Wait Between Opening Credit Cards?

The general consensus among credit experts is to wait at least six months between applications. 

When you submit a new credit card application, your credit score may temporarily drop, primarily due to two factors. First, each application results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can lower your score by a few points. Second, opening a new credit account can reduce your average age of credit, another factor influencing your score. 

While the impact varies depending on your credit history, a drop of five to 10 points is normal after a credit card application. Fortunately, the dip in your credit score is usually short-lived, with hard inquiries having less impact after 12 months and falling off your report entirely after 24 months.

Be Extra Cautious Before Applying

When applying for a credit card, make sure you are extra cautious and thoroughly review the following:

  • Terms and conditions: Review your credit card’s terms and conditions, including fine print, disclosures, and legal agreements. Focus on fees, penalties, grace periods, payment dates, billing cycles, and other factors affecting card costs.
  • Additional fees: Consider additional credit card fees, such as annual, balance transfer, foreign transaction, and late payment fees, which impact your card’s overall cost. Understand these fees before applying, and evaluate if they fit your budget and spending patterns.
  • Interest rates: The APR represents the interest rate for credit card balances. Assess if the card’s interest rates suit your budget, as high rates can impact borrowing costs.
  • Affordability: Evaluate if you can afford the credit card’s minimum payments, fees, and costs without jeopardizing your financial health. Understand your budget and spending habits to avoid financial strain or debt accumulation.
  • Rewards: Consider the card type, cashback offers, rewards, and other perks. Assess whether rewards align with your lifestyle and preferences and whether they provide meaningful value. Review program terms for restrictions.
  • Credit limit: Review the maximum amount you can charge on the credit card and assess whether it suits your needs and usage patterns. Avoid maxing out the limit, as it can negatively impact your credit score and increase interest charges.
  • Credit score requirements: Review the credit score requirements for approval, and assess whether your credit score meets the criteria. Applying for cards beyond your credit score range may result in denials and unnecessary credit inquiries.
  • Application restrictions: Understand application restrictions, such as limits on the number of cards or frequency of applying, to avoid unnecessary credit inquiries and denials. Strategically plan your applications to align with your credit profile.
  • Other important factors: Consider customer service, online account management, and security measures offered. 

Reasons to Wait Longer Before Applying

Industry experts generally advise you to wait at least six months between credit card applications to protect your credit score. However, this timeline is a general guideline that can vary depending on individual credit profiles. 

For instance, if you have a poor or bad credit score, you may want to wait longer so your score can improve. Applying for credit with a bad credit score can make it more difficult for your rating to rebound, and it will likely take longer to get it in good standing. 

Bad credit score report

However, if you have fair or good credit, the six-month time frame provides a reasonable buffer for your credit score to rebound from the temporary dip caused by the credit inquiry.

When applying for a new credit card, patience can be a virtue. While submitting applications back-to-back in hopes of snagging multiple cards may be tempting, taking a more measured approach can yield better results in the long run. 

Here are the top reasons why exercising patience and waiting before applying for a new credit card can be a smart financial move:

  • Avoid appearing desperate for credit: Applying for too many credit cards in a short time can indicate that you are in dire need of credit, which can raise a red flag to lenders.
  • Allow your credit score to recover: When applying for a credit card, the hard credit inquiry can temporarily lower your score. Waiting between applications will give your credit score time to recover.
  • Evaluate card benefits and drawbacks: Applying for a credit card should not be an impulsive decision. Evaluate whether the card’s benefits and features align with your financial goals.
  • Prevent accumulating excessive debt: Applying for multiple credit cards within a short period can lead to excessive debt and a higher credit utilization ratio, negatively impacting your credit score. Luckily, there are numerous ways to pay off credit card debt aggressively.

Alternatives to Credit Cards

If you need financial assistance, there are alternatives to applying for multiple lines of credit. For instance, you may be eligible for government assistance programs that may not require a credit check. These options can help you manage your finances while avoiding the risks associated with taking on too much debt.

Here are some options for financial assistance that do not involve applying for multiple lines of credit:

  1. Government assistance programs: Many government programs provide financial aid to individuals with specific eligibility criteria. These programs may include food stamps, housing assistance, unemployment benefits, and cash assistance. These programs typically do not require a credit check, so they may be a good option for individuals with poor credit or limited credit history.
  1. Credit counseling: Credit counseling may be a helpful resource if you’re struggling with debt. Credit counseling agencies can help you develop a budget, negotiate with creditors, and create a debt management plan to pay off your debts. While credit counseling does not provide financial assistance directly, it can help you get your finances back on track and avoid the need for additional lines of credit.
  1. Side hustles: If you need to increase your income, consider taking on a side hustle. This could include freelance work, part-time jobs, or selling items online. By earning extra income, you can reduce the need for additional lines of credit and improve your financial situation.

Are There Any Application Restrictions?

In your quest to apply for new credit cards, remember that timing is not the only factor to consider. It’s equally important to be aware of application restrictions by the credit card issuer. 

Different credit card types

For example, some credit card issuers may limit the number of cards you can hold with their bank or how frequently you can submit new applications. In fact, certain banks may impose unique application restrictions, such as limits on the number of cards you can have or specific timeframes for submitting applications.

American Express Application Restrictions

American Express has several application restrictions to be aware of. One notable restriction is the “Once per Lifetime” policy, which states that individuals can only receive the welcome bonus once in their lifetime. This means that if you have previously received a cashback welcome bonus for an American Express card, you may not be eligible to receive it again, even if you close the account and reapply later.

Additionally, American Express has the “1/5 Rule,” which limits individuals to a maximum of one credit card application within five days. 

Bank of America Application Restrictions

Bank of America also has application restrictions to be aware of. One notable restriction is the “2/3/4 Rule,” which limits the number of credit card applications an individual can submit within a specific timeframe.

According to this rule, individuals can only be approved for a maximum of two Bank of America credit cards within two months, three Bank of America credit cards within 12 months, and four Bank of America credit cards within 24 months.

This restriction applies to both personal and business credit card applications. 

Capital One Application Restrictions

Capital One also sets certain limitations and guidelines for credit card applications that should be considered. One notable restriction is the “Capital One 6/24 Rule,” which limits the approval of specific credit card applications based on an individual’s credit history.

Individual applying for a credit card online

According to this rule, if you have acquired six or more credit card accounts from any issuer within the past 24 months, you may not be eligible for approval for certain Capital One credit cards.

Additionally, Capital One has a policy of limiting individuals to a maximum of two personal credit card applications within 30 days. 

Chase Application Restrictions

Chase is known for its application restrictions. One notable restriction is the “5/24 Rule,” which limits the approval of certain Chase credit cards based on an individual’s credit history. As per this rule, if you have opened five or more credit card accounts from any issuer within 24 months, you may be denied from all Chase credit cards.

Also, Chase has a policy of limiting individuals to one Sapphire-branded credit card at a time. Finally, Chase may limit cardholders’ ability to change credit cards, promotional offers, and bonuses. 

Citi Application Restrictions

Citi also has certain limitations and guidelines for credit card applications that should be noted. One notable restriction is the “8/65 Limit,” which limits the number of credit card applications an individual can submit within a specific timeframe. As per this limit, individuals can only apply for one Citi credit card within eight days and no more than two within 65 days.

Additionally, Citi’s policy restricts welcome bonuses to once per 48 months on specific credit cards. 

Key Takeaways

  • Applying for too many credit cards in a short amount of time can hurt your credit score and make it harder to get approved for future credit.
  • Before applying for a new credit card, review the terms and conditions carefully.
  • Applying for a credit card can lower your credit score temporarily, but waiting at least six months between applications can give your score time to recover.
  • Some banks have application restrictions, so research each bank’s policies before applying.

Sum Up

Applying for credit cards can be a valuable strategy for earning rewards and building your credit history. However, it’s prudent to approach them with caution and thoughtfulness, especially regarding the frequency of applications.

Applying for too many credit cards in a short period can adversely impact your credit score and hinder future credit approvals. Experts recommend waiting at least six months between credit card applications and thoroughly researching each bank’s policies before applying. 

By following these guidelines and demonstrating responsible credit behavior, you can optimize the benefits of credit cards while safeguarding your credit score and future credit opportunities.

Credit Cards View all