Credit Card Application Rules By Bank

Filed Under: American Express, Bank of America
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Update: This article contains mentions of Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Chase Freedom®, the American Express® Business Gold Card and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express whose terms have expired and are in the process of being updated. All other offers reflect accurate offer terms. Learn more about the current offers here.


All of the major credit card issuers have different rules when it comes to applying for their cards. Furthermore, these rules are constantly changing, as banks try to optimize their strategy as to what kind of card members they’re looking for.

With issuers coming up with more and more rules nowadays for being approved for their cards, I wanted to provide an updated rundown of the rules from each of the major card issuers.

In this post I’ll discuss the basics you should be aware of if you want to be approved for a card by American Express, Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Bank of America.

Keep A Good Credit Score & Use Cards Responsibly

Before I get too deep into the rules, there are a couple of things I want to say up front.

First of all, this is intended for people with excellent credit. Credit cards can be extremely rewarding, and applying for lots of credit cards can even help your credit. So make sure you do what you can to keep your credit score high, which shouldn’t be too tough when keeping to best practices.

Second of all, you should only sign up for credit cards if you can use them responsibly. This means paying off your balance in full every month, and not increasing your spending hugely just because you’re not paying cash.

Having the right credit cards can help you maximize rewards greatly, though the value of those rewards will quickly be offset if you’re paying 20%+ interest financing charges. So don’t do that.

Lastly, these rules are constantly changing, and I’m also generalizing here, so make sure you always study the terms on the application page of the card you’re considering getting.

With that out of the way, let’s get right into it.

American Express Application Rules

In my experience American Express cards are among the easiest to be approved for. If you’re new to credit cards, I always recommend starting with Amex, because they’re often the most generous when it comes to instant approvals.

In some ways they have strict rules for getting approved, while in other cases they don’t, so here are the rules to be aware of:

Once In A Lifetime Rule

The welcome bonuses on virtually all American Express cards are “once in a lifetime.” That means you can get the bonus on just about every card once, but you can’t get it again in the future. So even if you closed the card, you won’t be eligible for the bonus on that card again in the future.

There are some mixed reports as to what exactly “lifetime” means, with some saying that period resets after seven years, but that’s a case of “your mileage may vary.”

Five Credit Card Limit

American Express limits you to having five of their credit cards at any given point. This limit doesn’t include their charge cards, including the following:

Two Credit Cards Every 90 Days

You won’t be approved for more than two Amex credit cards in a 90 day period. This limit excludes charge cards, which are counted separately.

As far as two cards within 90 days goes, it’s generally okay to apply for two credit cards the same day — just expect that one application may be delayed a few days before it’s approved, and that’s fine.

Eligibility Check

Amex seems to be denying bonuses for certain people based on their history with Amex, beyond the above rules. If this applies to you, you may receive a pop-up during the application process that reads as follows:

Based on your history with American Express welcome offers, introductory APR offers, or the number of cards you have opened and closed, you are not eligible to receive this welcome offer.

We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?

Chase Application Rules

Chase largely has the most lucrative rewards credit cards, though they’re also often the toughest to be approved for. So if you want to be approved for a Chase card, there are a few restrictions to be aware of.

The 5/24 Rule

Chase has what’s known as the 5/24 rule, where you typically won’t be approved for one of their cards if you’ve opened five or more cards in the past 24 months. This applies to all Chase cards nowadays. Do note that some business card applications won’t count towards that limit, though.

Two Cards Every 30 Days

Chase will typically approve you for at most two personal cards in a 30 day period, and at most one business card in a 30 day period. As I said above, Chase is in many ways one of the toughest issuers, so don’t necessarily expect you’ll be approved for two cards in 30 days, though you might be.

No Limit On How Many Cards You Can Have

Chase doesn’t seem to have a strict limit on how many total cards you can have from them. Rather their restriction seems to be based on how much total credit they’re willing to extend you.

Often they’ll let you switch around credit lines on cards to be able to open a new card, should they feel like you’re maxed out on the amount of credit they’ll give you.

The 24 & 48 Month Rule

Chase welcome bonuses mostly aren’t once in a lifetime, but rather are based on a 24 or 48-month cycle.

The most common rule on cards is that you’re not eligible for the welcome bonus on a card if you currently have that card, or if you’re a previous cardmember who received a bonus on the card in the past 24 months. For example, this is the rule on the Chase Freedom® Card (review) and Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review).

For some cards this limit is 48 months, though. For example, on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) the same rules apply, except it’s based on having received a bonus on the card in the past 48 months.

Family Card Rules

For most Chase cards, eligibility for a welcome bonus is based on whether you’ve had that specific card before. However, for applications of Sapphire, Marriott, and Southwest cards, further “family” rules may apply.

For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review) you’re not eligible for the bonus if you currently have either of the Sapphire cards, or if you’ve gotten the new cardmember bonus on either of the Sapphire cards in the past 48 months.

Citi Application Rules

Citi is somewhere between American Express and Chase when it comes to how difficult it is to be approved for their cards. I think the best way to describe Citi is that they can be quirky when it comes to approvals. So let’s take a look at the rules you should be aware of.

One Card Every Eight Days, Two Cards Every 65 Days

Citi will approve you for at most one card every eight days, and at most two cards every 65 days. This is a rolling limit.

The 24 Month Rule

Much like Chase, welcome bonuses aren’t once in a lifetime, but rather they have a required waiting period.

With Citi’s 24 month rule, you’re typically not eligible for the bonus on a particular card if you’ve closed that card or have received a new cardmember bonus on the card in the past 24 months.

Family Card Rules

Some Citi cards, including the Citi Premier℠ CardCiti Prestige® Card, and Citi Rewards+℠ Card (review), have family card rules. In other words, for those three cards:

  • You’re not eligible for the welcome bonus on any of those cards if you’ve received a new cardmember bonus on any of them in the past 24 months
  • You’re not eligible for the welcome bonus on any of those cards if you’ve closed any of them in the past 24 months

The 48 Month AAdvantage Rule

Some AAdvantage cards have a different version of the above. For example, on the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® (review) you’re not eligible if you’ve received a new card bonus in the past 48 months. The good news is that there’s no “family” rule in that case.

Capital One Application Rules

Capital One is a fairly new issuer when it comes to having cards that are interesting to those into miles & points, given their introduction of a transferable points currency in late 2018, with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (review) and Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business (review).

So let’s look at what you need to know about applications with them.

One Card Every Six Months

Capital One will approve you for at most one card every six months, so pick wisely. This restriction applies to both personal and business cards.

Pull From All Three Credit Bureaus

To me this isn’t a big issue and also doesn’t necessarily impact your odds of approval, though it’s worth knowing that Capital One pulls from all three credit bureaus.

Bank Of America Application Rules

Bank of America has an ever-increasing number of credit cards that are interesting to those looking to maximize rewards, including cards like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card (review), Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card (review), and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card (review).

2/3/4 Rule

With the 2/3/4 rule, you can typically only be approved for at most two Bank of America cards in a rolling two month period, three cards in a rolling 12 month period, and four cards in a rolling 24 month period.

3/12 Rule

This seems to be a relatively recent addition to Bank of America cards, but anecdotally it seems that you won’t be approved for Bank of America cards (business or personal) if you’ve opened three or more new credit cards with all issuers in the past 12 months (much like with the Chase 5/24 rule, most business cards don’t seem to count towards that limit).

The exception is if you have a deposit account with Bank of America, in which case the rule seems to instead be that you can’t be approved if you’ve opened seven or more cards in that period.

Note that this doesn’t seem to be enforced 100% of the time, and there seems to be some flexibility. However, we are now frequently seeing people denied for cards with as few as three inquiries in the past 24 months.

24 Month Rule

Many Bank of America cards have a 24-month rule, where you can’t get a card if you’ve had that card in the past 24 months.

Credit Card Application Restrictions Summary

As you can see, there’s a huge variance in terms of approval rules across the major card issuers. In all cases, you’ll want to consult the terms listed on the credit card application for the card you’re considering.

Credit card issuers often update their policies as well, and while I’ll try to keep this updated, stuff often changes without us even knowing.

If you have any experiences to share with credit card approvals please do, as it’s possible I missed something, and data points are always helpful.

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Comments
  1. @ Ben — As I’m sure you know, the AMEX lifetime really isn’t lifetime…I’ve found that somewhere in the range of 5-7 years is “safe”.

  2. Ben, some of your descriptions are very poorly described. For example, how can CHASE have no limit to credit cards you may open with them if they are pretty strict about not approving new cards once a person has opened more than 5 cards in the last 24 months?

  3. @ Million Flyer — The point is that over time you can accumulate many Chase cards, and Chase doesn’t have a “hard” known limit on how many Chase cards you can have. So in theory you could get five Chase cards in 24 months, and if you don’t apply for any other cards you could get another five in the following 24 months. Does that make sense?

  4. Again Lucky, you’ve mentioned Captial One’s pull behaviour, but not their insistence on reporting business cards on personal credit files (unlike the other issuers mentioned).

    Why the continued omission? Given you have opted to mention Chase’s 5/24 rules, this omission makes very little sense unless there’s something we’re all missing.

  5. I agree with Andrew that Barclays should really be added given their AA cards and the arrival.

  6. My husband got a Capital One Venture card, then a Capital One Sparks card 2 months later. So maybe you mean only 1 person card every 6 months, and 1 business card every 6 months. Not combined.

  7. How does Citi treat the Executive AA card with respect to the Platinum Select cards. Thought that card had a 24 month cycle.

  8. Barclays definitely has some form of 5/24. Was recently rejected for the JetBlue plus for too many cards in the last 24 months according to the reconsideration line.

  9. @Alex – most datapoints seem to indicate that Barclays have a rule that is codified as 6/24.

    Only personal credit reports are considered in determining the number of accounts opened in the last 24 months.

  10. Hi Everyone,
    When did the Citi AA 48 months rules start? I applied on June 20th and got the card already. My last bonus was more than 24 months but i think shorter than 48.

  11. Lucky, my partner and I are moving to the US from Australia next month. Given that we’ll both start with a low credit rating, is there any chance we’ll be accepted for any of these cards?

  12. I also would like to echo the remarks regarding no information on Barclay cards, specifically the AA and Arrival. Are there data points as to if and when you can get a sign-up bonus if you already had, and closed, the cards?
    Thank you

  13. I just tried to apply for a Capital One Venture card and was denied as I had too many new credit card applications over the past 24 months… I wonder if they have something akin to Chase 5/24

  14. Are there any rules about keeping the card open after the initial bonus spend has been met? Do any banks claw a bonus back if you don’t have the card open for a year?

  15. @John:

    Have not read the fine print, but called to cancel AmEx Gold about two weeks too early (called in early October 2019 for a mid-October anniversary year) and phone agent warned me that they’d pull back the 50,000 MRs I’d received if I closed before the end of the 12-month period. So I essentially waited 10 or so days, called back and canceled with no issues. I’m not sure how they pull them back in practice, though – someone else may be able to speak to that. Also, I don’t know if that’s a hollow threat or not, but I certainly didn’t want to gamble on that.

  16. @John @AR I believe you have to hold a card for at least 12 months to avoid clawback. Amex has this language on their applications:

    “If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome offer(s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit the Bonus Points to your account.”

  17. Should it not be mentioned that you can receive direct (email and snail mail) invitations for the Amex Delta cards that completely, and within the complete rules, bypass the one in a lifetime bonus language?

  18. Should it not be mentioned that you can receive direct (email and snail mail) invitations for the Amex Delta cards that completely, and within the complete rules, bypass the one in a lifetime bonus language?

  19. Lucky, are you interested in reviewing Air Algerie in the near future? It seems like they have a sale for YUL-ALG-BCN round trip for 1700+USD (next Feburary).

  20. @ric you can transfer your Amex to Australia. I have done it from Singapore to Australia. In terms of Australian banks look at westpac, NAB and ANZ. I don’t like citibank in Australia as 100% digital bank, yet required me to write them a letter go to post office with an actual signed letter. All too hard so closed the account.

  21. I think the Amex once in a lifetime should be clarified. Your post makes it sound like it’s dependent on whether you got the bonus or not. It’s not. It’s if you *have* or have *ever had* the card. Regardless of whether or not you got the bonus. At least on the wording of all the Amex cards I’ve looked at.

  22. Not sure about the 24 month rule with B of A. I had the premium B of A Amtrak card, and when my annual fee was due they were running a 40,000 Amtrak point bonus for new sign-ups (it’s normally 20,000 points). I cancelled the card and applied (and got accepted) for a new one just a couple of weeks later, earning enough points for a first class coast-to-coast and then some.

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