(Updated) Credit Card Application Rules By Bank – A Complete Guide

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Guide: Credit Card Application Rules By Bank

Credit Card Application Rules By Bank (Guide)

In this guide, we will cover the credit card application rules by bank. Each bank has its own application rules. How many cards you can have, credit limits, how often you can apply, and other factors govern credit card application rules by bank. The purpose of this guide is to help you know when you are and are not eligible to apply for credit cards with each different issuing bank.

Updated 5/23/20

Here are quick links to credit card application rules for each bank:

American express credit card application rules

American Express

American Express has two types of cards: charge cards & credit cards. Credit cards are the most common card, where you can use your card at a store and pay the bill over time. You will pay interest, but the card is designed for paying over time. With charge cards, you must pay the whole bill on the due date. There are penalties for not paying off the entire bill.

American Express Quick Hits On the Rules
  • Maximum of 5 credit cards, sometimes 6. The new limit is 4 credit cards.
  • A maximum of 10 charge cards.
  • 2 cards in a rolling 90 day period.
  • Welcome offers are once per lifetime (usually 7 years is considered a lifetime).
  • A pop-up will alert you if you are not eligible for a particular welcome offer.

Maximum Number of Cards

As of May 2020, American Express has a maximum of 4 credit cards per user. If you have 4 credit cards, you will need to close one before opening another. Their automated system can take up to 30 days to recognize that you’ve closed a card, but a reconsideration call can point out that you closed a card and have only 3. Then, you will become eligible for another card.

For charge cards, the limit is 10. Experience tells us that Amex still considers credit limits and your overall profile with charge cards. 4 is typical for most people to get approved at one time. More is possible though less common.

Shifting Credit Limits

Amex will automatically shift credit limits when opening a new card for you. An example of this would be applying for a card when you have an Amex credit card already. The credit limit on this card is $20,000. American Express approves you for the new card with a $10,000 credit limit and reduces your other card to only $10,000 as well. They opened the new card by shifting credit from another card you already have. You can also request this as a method to get approved when calling after an application was denied.

Timing Of Applications

American Express will not approve more than 2 credit cards in a rolling 90 day period. This does not apply to charge cards. To be approved for credit cards, ensure you’re past 90 days from card 1 before applying for card 3. Card 2 can be within that 90 days. This is known as the 2/90 rule for Amex.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

American Express has 2 rules regarding eligibility for welcome offers. The first is a pop-up message that may be displayed when applying. If this says you are not eligible for the welcome offer, you are able to cancel the application without officially submitting it. It’s as if you never applied.

The other rule is “once in a lifetime”. If you had this card in the past and received a new cardmember welcome offer on the card, and then received the points from that offer, you cannot get a similar offer and the associated bonus again. If you’ve received it once, you cannot have it again on the same card. Targeted offers without lifetime language are semi-frequent, and data points also suggest that “lifetime” is more likely 7 years. Because of this “lifetime” language, holding out for high welcome offers is recommended.

Bank of America application rules

Bank of America

Bank of America does not offer charge cards. All of their cards are credit cards. Here is a review of their application rules.

Bank of America Quick Hits On the Rules
  • Maximum of 4 credit cards.
  • 2/3/4 rule for new card frequency.
  • Those with banking accounts can get approved for more cards.
  • You can receive the welcome offer on the same card more than once.

Maximum Number of Cards

Bank of America will close cards after you have what they consider an “excessive” number of cards. Data suggests having more than 4 cards with them is considered excessive. Additionally, students are limited to only 2 cards.

Shifting Credit Limits

Bank of America will also shift credit limits to approve new cards. This is typically not automatic. You can request this via a reconsideration call to open a new card without the bank extending additional amounts of credit to you.

Timing Of Applications

Bank of America has what is known as the 2/3/4 rule. It is known as this rule because of the rolling limits including these numbers:

  • 2 new cards in 2 months
  • 3 new cards in 12 months
  • 4 new cards in 24 months

Remember that these are maximums. You are not guaranteed to get approved this many cards. Business cards are not included in this rule, and having a financial relationship with Bank of America (ex: a checking account) can improve your card eligibility.

Additionally, Bank of America has rules for considering cards you’ve opened with other issuers. This rule varies by whether or not you have banking accounts with Bank of America.

  • If you have a deposit account with Bank of America – Your credit card application will be denied if you have 7 new cards in the past 12 months.
  • If you do NOT have a deposit account with Bank of America – Your credit card application will be denied if you have 3 new cards in the past 12 months.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

The majority of Bank of America cards have 24 month language on the welcome offers. If you have received a welcome offer on that same card within the past 24 months, you are not eligible for another. You also cannot have the card at present, so you will need to close the card AND not have received a welcome offer within 24 months.

The one exception to this rule is the Bank of America Cash Rewards card. It’s terms are as follows: “This Cash Rewards card will not be available to you if you currently have a Cash Rewards card unless you have had that Cash Rewards card for at least 24 months.”

Barclaycard rules

Barclays

Barclays does not offer charge cards. All of their cards are credit cards. Here is a review of their application rules.

Barclays Quick Hits On the Rules
  • Sensitive to recent inquiries.
  • Only 1 new card every 6 months.
  • 6/24 rule for Arrival Plus applications. (When it is available)
  • You can receive the welcome offer on the same card more than once.

Maximum Number of Cards

Barclays does not specify a maximum number of cards you can have. They operate by a maximum amount ($) of credit they will extend to you, based on credit profile. However, you cannot have more than 1 of the same card at the same time.

Shifting Credit Limits

Requesting to shift credit from other cards is possible if you were denied during an application. However, denials with Barclaycard are often based on other factors, so this might not help if your denial wasn’t strictly related to “maximum credit extended.”

Timing Of Applications

Barclays will only approve you for 1 card every 6 months. Other factors are more fluid, such as recommendations to use your other Barclays cards before a new application, but this rule seems fixed. The only card with a written rule on application numbers, though, is the Arrival Plus. If you’ve opened more than 6 cards in the past 24 months, you’re unlikely to be approved for the Arrival Plus card (currently unavailable).

Welcome Offer Eligibility

it is possible to receive points from a welcome offer on the same card twice. If you’ve had a card from Barclays in the past, you can’t receive a bonus from a welcome offer again within 24 months. Additionally, you should close that card and wait 6 months before applying for it again.

Capital One credit cards

Capital One

Capital One also does not offer charge cards. All of their cards are credit cards. Capital One is known for pulling all 3 major credit card bureaus, which other banks do not do. Here is a review of their application rules.

Capital One Quick Hits On the Rules
  • Maximum of 2 personal cards at any time.
  • Only 1 new card every 6 months.
  • You can receive the welcome offer on the same card more than once.

Maximum Number of Cards

Capital One limits you to 2 personal cards. If you have 2 personal cards with Capital One, you need to close one before you can open another. This 2 card limit does not apply to business cards.

Shifting Credit Limits

Shifting credit is theoretically possible but probably not needed, since you can only have 2 cards. If you were denied, it was likely for other reasons where this won’t matter.

Timing Of Applications

You can only receive 1 new card every 6 months. This applies to personal and business cards. If you apply for another card within 6 months, the application will be rejected automatically. This includes denials so if you were denied 3 months ago you will be automatically denied again.  Applications must be spread out by 6 months.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

You can receive the welcome offer again. The only restriction on timing is in relation to how quickly you can apply for cards in general. There is no mandated waiting period after receiving a welcome offer.

Chase application rules

Chase

Typically the bank most people start with in this hobby, Chase has its own credit card application rules. These pertain to your history with Chase and also your overall credit picture. Chase is also known for its 5/24 rule, which means that having more than 5 new accounts showing on your credit report in 24 months will lead to automatic denials. It’s important to note that you must be under 5/24 to apply for Chase business cards, but the cards themselves will not count towards your 5/24 limit. If you are an authorized user on another person’s card, and this shows on your credit report, you should be able to get approved after denial by calling Chase.

Chase Quick Hits On the Rules
  • 5/24 rule for all cards.
  • Personal cards add to 5/24 but business cards do not.
  • 2/30 rule for personal cards and 1/90 recommendation for business cards.
  • You can receive the welcome offer on the same card more than once.

Maximum Number of Cards

Chase does not specify a maximum number of credit cards you can have with them. However, they may conduct a financial review of people with a large number of Chase credit cards. It is also more difficult to reach high numbers with Chase, now that all cards are subject to 5/24. Instead of a number of cards, Chase has an overall amount of credit they are willing to extend you. This is usually based on your credit profile and income.

Shifting Credit Limits

Chase will shift credit limits from other cards. I have not seen them do this automatically, so call to request it to get a new card approved after a denial. Note that they will not shift limits between personal and business cards.

Timing Of Applications

Chase does not have a written rule, but most data suggests a 2/30 rule. This means you cannot be approved for more than 2 cards within 30 days. This is for personal cards. For business cards, 1 card within 30 days is generally the maximum. Spacing out business applications to 60 or 90 days is recommended for better chances of approvals.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

Chase has 4 rules to bear in mind for welcome offers:

  • First, if you’ve had that card previously, you need to close it and also not receive a welcome offer within the last 24 months to receive it again.
  • Second, Sapphire cards have a 48-month rule. If you’ve received a welcome offer on ANY Sapphire product, you cannot receive another welcome offer on ANY Sapphire product for 48 months.
  • Third, now that Amex also issues Marriott co-branded cards, there are special cross-card welcome offer rules to understand. We covered them here when the cards were introduced.
  • Lastly, you cannot get 2 Southwest personal card welcome offers within 24 months. However, you can get 1 personal and 1 business Southwest welcome offer in this time.


Citi

Another bank offering only credit cards, Citi has its own unique application rules. Citi is also known to be sensitive regarding the number of credit inquiries on your credit report.

Citi Quick Hits On the Rules
  • Sensitive to recent inquiries — 6/6 rule.
  • 8/65/90 application limits.
  • Open/close/change a card resets the 24-month application window on that card family.
  • You can receive the welcome offer on the same card more than once.

Maximum Number of Cards

Citi does not mandate a set limit. Instead, they operate on creditworthiness and the maximum amount of credit they want to extend to you. There is no fixed limit on cards.

Shifting Credit Limits

Citi will allow you to shift credit limits to open a new card. They may do this automatically when you apply for a new card. If not, and you are denied, you can request this when calling them.

Timing Of Applications

Citi has very specific rules about how often you can apply for credit cards. There are separate rules for business and personal cards.

  • 1 new card every 8 days
  • 2 personal cards in 65 days
  • 1 business card every 90 days

Additionally, there is an unofficial 6/6 rule. If Citi sees 6 inquiries on your credit report within the last 6 months, you’re likely to be denied.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

Citi’s welcome offer eligibility is the most complex to understand. It focuses on 24 months, as most banks do. However, this includes looking at when you opened AND when you closed or change a card in this same family. Here’s an example:

Citi has multiple cards that earn their ThankYou Points. That’s considered one family. If you open the Citi Premier in this family, you are not eligible for other welcome offers in this family for 24 months. If you close this card or change it to something else, the 24 month clock starts counting from 0. I will say product changes from one product to another are very YMMV on whether or not it restarts the clock.  It is believed that if the account number stays the same that it does not restart the clock.

It’s important to note that business cards and personal cards are not considered the same family. The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Card and the Citi AAdvntage Platinum Select Card are not considered in the same family. You can receive the welcome offer on both of them within 24 months. Additionally, some Citi cards are moving to a “48 months per this card” welcome offer restriction and moving away from card family-related restrictions.

Discover has unique application rules

Discover

Another bank offering only credit cards, Discover has its own credit card application rules. It’s also important to know that they report information about your business cards to your personal credit report.

Discover Quick Hits On the Rules
  • Only 2 personal cards at a time.
  • Maximum of 1 new card every 12 months.
  • Will match offers given to other customers, but offers are typically less attractive than other banks.
  • You can receive the welcome offer on the same card more than once.

Maximum Number of Cards

Discover is very strict. You can only have 2 personal cards with them at a time. If you’re a student, the limit is 1 card. Additionally, your first card must be open for a year before you can get another card / future cards.

Shifting Credit Limits

Discover allows for shifting credit limits from one card to another. With only 2 cards allowed, it’s unlikely most people will need this.

Timing Of Applications

You can only get 1 new card every 12 months.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

Discover will match welcome offers, which is a nice bonus. You can also get welcome offers on the same card that you’ve received in the past. The only limit is their application timeline.


U.S. Bank

This is another bank with only credit cards. U.S. Bank tends to pull lesser-known credit bureaus, and previous advice was to freeze these. New data suggests you may be denied for these being frozen. Additionally, U.S. Bank is much more likely to approve you for cards if you have banking accounts with them. It’s also known that U.S. Bank is sensitive to the number of inquiries on your credit report.

U.S. Bank Quick Hits On the Rules
  • Sensitive to recent inquiries.
  • 4/12 or 5/12 rule when applying for their cards.
  • Unlikely to be approved if you don’t have other accounts (ex: checking) with them.
  • You can receive the welcome offer on the same card more than once.

Maximum Number of Cards

U.S. Bank does not have a hard rule on numbers of cards. Instead, your creditworthiness is considered.

Shifting Credit Limits

U.S. Bank allows for shifting credit limits from one card to another. However, this will not happen automatically and usually requires a phone call to shift limits for approvals.

Timing Of Applications

The only known rule is that you cannot get the Altitude Reserve card without having a prior relationship with them. You need to have bank accounts or other credit cards prior to getting this card. They are also sensitive to outside credit pulls.  If you have more than 4 or 5 approvals in the last 12 months you will likely be denied.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

You can receive welcome offers on the same card twice. There are no rules about waiting periods. If you’ve closed the card and are approved for it again, you should receive the bonus from the welcome offer again.

Wells Fargo application rules

Wells Fargo

This is another bank with only credit cards. Wells Fargo is also much more likely to approve you for credit cards if you have a banking relationship with them.

Wells Fargo Quick Hits On the Rules
  • Only 1 new card every 6 months.
  • Minimum 15 months since your last welcome offer to be eligible for any others.
  • Business and personal cards operate on separate timelines.
  • You can receive the welcome offer on the same card more than once.

Maximum Number of Cards

Like most of the above issuers, Wells Fargo doesn’t limit the number of cards you can have. Instead, normal recommendations apply regarding your overall credit profile. This is unlikely to be a problem, since you can’t get new cards / welcome offers very quickly with Wells Fargo under its credit card application rules.

Shifting Credit Limits

Wells Fargo should allow shifting credit limits from one card to another. However, data points on how easily / automatically this happens are limited. In theory, it’s possible.

Timing Of Applications

You can only open 1 new card with Wells Fargo every 6 months.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

You can only get welcome offers and introductory APR rates once every 15 months. This sounds odd, since you can get a new card every 6 months. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive the points from a welcome offer if you’ve had another one on ANY Wells Fargo card in the past 15 months. Business and personal cards are considered in separate timelines.

Final Thoughts On Credit Card Application Rules

It’s helpful to know each bank’s credit card application rules. This avoids applying for cards you’re unlikely to be approved for or opening cards for which you won’t receive a welcome offer. Each bank has its own rules regarding credit limits, numbers of cards, application frequency and more. It’s also important to remember that every bank will consider other factors, such as rapid surges in spending, inquiries, and accounts. This can look risky to them, which can result in financial reviews, audits, shutdowns, etc. Following these rules and suggestions is not a guarantee but can help increase the odds of being approved for a card.

As this is a resource guide, it will be updated whenever rules change.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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7 COMMENTS

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding Barclays card limits: I was able to get 2 Aviator Biz within 2 months. One in 11/19 and another one in 12/19, by saying I had two SP businesses. Both used my SS#. So that’s 2 cards within 90 days and 2 of the same card.

    • That sounds almost like 2 cards in 30 days. Was the 2nd rejected and required a phone call? I assume you got the bonus on both, correct?
      I’m surprised by this!

      • I reconned the second card, and told the agent that I have two businesses and need to separate the expenses, which is why I wanted two business cards. She asked a few basic questions about the buinesses and approved the second card. I asked if I would get the AA miles bonus and she seemed to think I would. However, right after this, all the AA shutdowns came to light and I was nervous to ‘poke the bear’, so I didn’t complete the required SUB spending on the second card. I had also just signed up for a Citi AA biz and didn’t want to jeopardize my miles.

  2. Limit of credit cards:
    In personal phone conversations, AE has not confirmed to me a limitation to 5 or 6 cards.
    So far I was approved for every card I applied for (11 within the last 2 years).
    I did close some of them, sure … but they explicitly told me in phone conversations that they wouldn’t limit anyone to a specific number of cards.
    Now … I am not a rich person … just a totally average guy … so I wonder what’s going on …

    • How many was the maximum you’ve had open at once? This will be a revolutionary data point if you’ve really had that many credit cards open at the same time (not charge cards). Sure, the reps may tell you there’s no limit, because this isn’t something they publish. It’s from years and years of data points that the limit is usually 5 at once, sometimes 6.

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