Credit Card Application Rules By Bank (2021)

Credit Card Application Rules By Bank (2021)

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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 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, Bank of America, and Barclays.

Keep an excellent credit score & use cards responsibly

Before I get too deep into the rules, there are a couple of things I want to mention upfront.

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. 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 billing cycle, 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 into it.

American Express application rules

In my experience, American Express cards are among the easiest to be approved for assuming you have good credit. There are also lots of lucrative cards earning Amex Membership Rewards points, which is the icing on the cake.

If you’re new to credit cards, I always recommend starting with Amex, because it’s the issuer that’s often the most generous when it comes to instant approvals, and having these cards can help you further build your credit history over time. In some ways Amex has strict rules for getting approved, while in other cases it doesn’t, so here are the rules to be aware of:

Amex issues some great travel credit cards

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. Even if you close a card, you won’t be eligible for the bonus on that card again in the future.

Note that this rule is based on whether you’ve had a card before, and not whether you’ve received a bonus on it. So if you had a card in the past but didn’t receive a bonus, you still wouldn’t be eligible for the bonus.

The good news is that the definition of “lifetime” might not be quite as strict as it sounds. Many report that seven years after canceling a card you’re eligible again, though that’s anecdotal rather than a published rule. Furthermore, sometimes there are targeted offers that don’t include this “once in a lifetime” restrictions.

Five credit card limit

American Express limits people to having five Amex credit cards at any given time. Note that this card limit don’t include cards without a fixed spending limit (often considered to be “hybrid” cards), like 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 cards without a fixed spending limit, 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 Chase cards are also often the toughest to be approved for. If you want to be approved for a Chase card, there are a few restrictions to be aware of:

I love earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points

The 5/24 rule

Chase has what’s known as the 5/24 rule, where you typically won’t be approved for a Chase card if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months. This applies to all Chase cards nowadays, including co-brand cards. Do note that most 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 the issuer. Rather Chase’s restriction seems to be based on how much total credit the issuer is willing to extend you. Often Chase will let you switch around credit lines on cards to be able to open a new card, in a situation where the company has extended you the maximum amount of credit.

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 FlexSM (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 received the new cardmember bonus on either of the Sapphire cards in the past 48 months.

Similarly, there are three personal Southwest Airlines credit cards, though you’re only eligible for the bonus on a particular card if you don’t currently have any card in that “family,” or haven’t received a new cardmember bonus on any card in the family in the past 24 months. In other words, you’re not eligible for the bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (review) if you have the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card (review).

Citi application rules

Citi is somewhere between American Express and Chase when it comes to how difficult it is to be approved for cards. I think the best way to describe Citi is that the issuer can be quirky when it comes to approvals. There are lots of great Citi cards, including cards earning Citi ThankYou points. Let’s take a look at the Citi application rules you should be aware of:

Citi has great travel & cash back credit cards

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 there’s 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® Card (review), Citi 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, you’re not eligible if you’ve received a new card bonus in the past 48 months with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review). The good news is that there’s no “family” rule in that case.

Capital One application rules

Capital One has become an increasingly popular card issuer in the miles & points space, given how much the issuer’s transferable points currency has improved. On top of that, with the recent introduction of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review), getting a Capital One card is more of a no-brainer than ever before. Lots of people are applying for the card, and as a result we also have more data points on Capital One’s application restrictions.

Let’s look at what you need to know about applications with Capital One:

Capital One is becoming increasingly popular in the travel space

Inconsistent rules

There aren’t any consistent application rules I’ve been able to figure out with Capital One. Now, there are some rumored policies, but I have enough data points that counter these alleged rules that make me feel like they’re not cut-and-dry. Specifically:

  • There’s a rumor that Capital One will approve you for at most one card every six months, and that includes personal and business cards; however, I’ve received many data points of people getting multiple cards within that period
  • There’s a rumor that Capital One will only let you have two personal credit cards at a time, excluding co-brand cards; however, there are several data points of people having more than two personal Capital One cards

So it’s worth being aware of the belief among some that these restrictions exist, but at a minimum it doesn’t seem like they’re consistently enforced.

Pull from all three credit bureaus

To me this isn’t a big issue and also doesn’t necessarily impact your odds of approval, but Capital One does generally pull credit from all three credit bureaus when you apply for a card. If your credit score is good, this shouldn’t really matter, though I know this is something that some people are concerned about.

Bank Of America application rules

Bank of America has several credit cards that are interesting to those looking to maximize rewards, including the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card (review). Here are the Bank of America application rules to be aware of:

Bank of America issues Alaska Airlines credit cards

2/3/4 rule

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

3/12 rule

Anecdotally you generally 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 credit cards have a 24 month rule, where you can’t get a card if you’ve had that card in the past 24 months.

Barclays

Barclays has a limited number of co-branded travel credit cards, including some American Airlines and JetBlue Airways cards. Unlike other issuers, Barclays has very few consistent restrictions on approvals:

Barclays issues American Airlines credit cards

Inconsistent rules

There are some general Barclays guidelines worth being aware of, though the catch is that they’re pretty inconsistently applied. If you’re considering a Barclays card:

  • Barclays sometimes applies a 6/24 rule, whereby the issuer won’t approve you for a card if you’ve opened six or more new cards in the past 24 months (this is similar to Chase’s 5/24 rule)
  • If you’re instantly approved for multiple Barclays cards in a day (which can be tough), the hard inquiries may be consolidated into one
  • Generally speaking, you’re eligible for the bonus on a Barclays card if you’ve closed the same card at least six months ago, though there’s a lot of inconsistency there
  • Barclays may consider your spending on other Barclays cards in deciding whether to approve you for a new one; in other words, if Barclays doesn’t see that you’re spending on your existing card, the issuer may not approve you for another card

Has coronavirus impacted credit card approval odds?

Coronavirus, and the accompanying economic uncertainty, has changed so many parts of our economy. Has coronavirus impacted the odds of being approved for a credit card? Yes and no.

When the pandemic first started, we saw some card issuers get significantly tougher with approvals. Typically these changes weren’t actually published, but rather we saw card issuers try to limit their exposure. This presented itself in a few ways:

  • Card issuers have in some cases limited the total credit they’re willing to extend people, meaning you may have to move around credit to get approved for a card
  • Credit card issuers have even in some cases closed down cards and reduced credit lines for cards that aren’t being utilized much, in order to minimize exposure
  • Card issuers may have increased requirements for approval, ranging from requiring higher credit scores to higher income
  • Anecdotally we’ve seen small business card approvals get tougher, given how many businesses are struggling financially and may be more likely to take on credit card debt

While getting approved for credit cards was significantly tougher for a while, it seems that for several months now approval odds have been very similar to pre-coronavirus. Your mileage may vary, though…

Bottom line

As you can see, there’s a huge variance in terms of the rules for getting approved for credit cards with 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.

What has your experience been with credit card approvals?

Conversations (10)
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  1. Sebastian Guest

    My creditors have been good about offering and following though on covid relief plans. With one exception. Wayfair, Comenity Bank, is single handedly responsible for a large point drop in my credit score. This despite having paid off another credit card, despite over 4 years of 100% on time payments. How? In the remarks they just added, “affected by natural disaster “. That’s it. That’s all it took to drop my score. I tried all...

    My creditors have been good about offering and following though on covid relief plans. With one exception. Wayfair, Comenity Bank, is single handedly responsible for a large point drop in my credit score. This despite having paid off another credit card, despite over 4 years of 100% on time payments. How? In the remarks they just added, “affected by natural disaster “. That’s it. That’s all it took to drop my score. I tried all I could to get my credit work fine but all my effort doesn't yield any result. I called a creditor to informed him about this sudden change and asked him, "How do I get my credit score back" He  made me know once your credit score dropped it takes a longer time before you could regain a good credit score/review and later confided to me that I should contact this credit expert "Tom" I contact his email tom.lawrence114 at g mail com. Tom was so honest with me an the outcome was amazing, he makes sure every debt was cleared off, remove dispute items, added tradeline, cleared every negative item and improved my credit score to 800s which I confirmed from the three credit sites. Thanks Tom your service is awesome

  2. Jeff L Guest

    Specifically for the Venture X, can a current or previous Authorized User later sign up for the same card and still receive the bonus?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Jeff L -- They sure can!

  3. Fenspinbi Guest

    The only rule is that there are no rules. I got approved for the BofA Flying Blue card despite being 9/24. Amex gave me the Platinum, then the BBP, then the Hilton Honors, put me in pop-up jail, then the Delta Gold, back to pop-up jail, and now the Amex Gold...all since Nov 2020. lol Capital One and Barclays have rejected every pickup line I've used...divas. Chase gave me the trifecta when I left the...

    The only rule is that there are no rules. I got approved for the BofA Flying Blue card despite being 9/24. Amex gave me the Platinum, then the BBP, then the Hilton Honors, put me in pop-up jail, then the Delta Gold, back to pop-up jail, and now the Amex Gold...all since Nov 2020. lol Capital One and Barclays have rejected every pickup line I've used...divas. Chase gave me the trifecta when I left the runway, so we're BFFs. Had no problem getting two of the Citi AA cards in Feb & April, respectively. Synchrony denied me for the PayPal card, but gave me the Rakuten Visa, so that's an even better win. Discover started me off with the "it", and there's nothing else to see there. I've yet to knock on US Bank's door, as they don't have anything particularly interesting, and I'm at risk of being spread too thin.

    Cap 1 rudely slammed the door in my face on the Venture X, so I went back to my true love, Amex, and she promptly comforted me with a shiny Rose Gold gift and 75k MR points. :)

    (I probably need to be benched for a couple seasons, but where there's a fire sale, there's opportunity.)

  4. DAVID R. WEINSTEIN Guest

    I ran into a blockade I had never heard of when I recently applied for the AMEX Bonvoy Business Card which, as you wrote, had wonderful welcome bonuses. I have an AMEX Bonvoy personal card but that was not the problem. They refused me because I have a CHASE Marriott branded card. Worse, AMEX could not (or would not) tell me which card disqualified me; AND I saw the AMEX list of disqualifying Chase cards...

    I ran into a blockade I had never heard of when I recently applied for the AMEX Bonvoy Business Card which, as you wrote, had wonderful welcome bonuses. I have an AMEX Bonvoy personal card but that was not the problem. They refused me because I have a CHASE Marriott branded card. Worse, AMEX could not (or would not) tell me which card disqualified me; AND I saw the AMEX list of disqualifying Chase cards and I don't have any of them. I spoke to "Supervisors" at AMEX at least twice and then just gave up. I still like AMEX but this was disappointing and troubling. The Chase cross-over DQ was not advised in advance and although the alert window did come up, when I went to "Chat", the screen read it as a willingness to proceed. So I had to monitor and cancel before the annual fee came due. A big hassle for no good reason.

  5. Francisco Guest

    I would like to ask you something. You have cc’ great for expenses on airfare, hotels, other travel related, groceries, dining, gas, internet, delivery, gym, etc. Is there a meaningful category expense-wise that you would categorize as an every day expense? Besides some eventual online shopping and some other random stuff, i can’t think of one.

    Thanks

  6. Donna Diamond

    I was surprised to read here last week during the Venture X launch how many readers were turned down with high credit scores. I closed five cards during the pandemic and in all but one case banks offered to waive the annual fee last year but I decided to close them. I opened an Amex card two weeks ago, the first new card since 2019, and I have two other Amex cards and received instant...

    I was surprised to read here last week during the Venture X launch how many readers were turned down with high credit scores. I closed five cards during the pandemic and in all but one case banks offered to waive the annual fee last year but I decided to close them. I opened an Amex card two weeks ago, the first new card since 2019, and I have two other Amex cards and received instant approval. I was down to seven cards and now with the new card I’m at eight, the lowest number in at least seven years. The pandemic has changed my credit card strategy and I’m waiting for life to get back to a more normal experience before I add new cards.

  7. Italia-Chris Guest

    I propose renaming this blog "One Credit Card At A Time." Lucky, I've always enjoyed your posts and reviews. I can appreciate that credit cards are both a major source of income for you and of interest to many readers as they're part of the "travel game." But there seems to be very little unique new content these days. It's mostly rehashed industry news (apart from all the credit card stuff) and, if we're lucky...

    I propose renaming this blog "One Credit Card At A Time." Lucky, I've always enjoyed your posts and reviews. I can appreciate that credit cards are both a major source of income for you and of interest to many readers as they're part of the "travel game." But there seems to be very little unique new content these days. It's mostly rehashed industry news (apart from all the credit card stuff) and, if we're lucky (no pun intended), a little hotel or flight review here and there. I've found myself looking to some of the Youtubers out there for fresh and entertaining content.
    I realize it's each reader's choice to stop by this website and read or ignore the content provided here. And rather than "whine," I could just move on and get my dose of travel and aviation content elsewhere. But I've enjoyed your blog over the years, and I respect what you've built. I hope you'll return to your roots and find a new balance between sharing unique experiences/tips and generating revenue. Best of luck(y)!

  8. Alan's Friend Guest

    Looking at the Chase 24 month rule for the new United Club card, do you think it is wise to cancel a current club card that was received back in Novemeber 2019, and try to get the new 100k welcome bonus? Or are there too many risks including losing the card if you are not approved on the new application?

    1. Andrew Guest

      I would downgrade to the no fee card then try.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Sebastian Guest

My creditors have been good about offering and following though on covid relief plans. With one exception. Wayfair, Comenity Bank, is single handedly responsible for a large point drop in my credit score. This despite having paid off another credit card, despite over 4 years of 100% on time payments. How? In the remarks they just added, “affected by natural disaster “. That’s it. That’s all it took to drop my score. I tried all I could to get my credit work fine but all my effort doesn't yield any result. I called a creditor to informed him about this sudden change and asked him, "How do I get my credit score back" He  made me know once your credit score dropped it takes a longer time before you could regain a good credit score/review and later confided to me that I should contact this credit expert "Tom" I contact his email tom.lawrence114 at g mail com. Tom was so honest with me an the outcome was amazing, he makes sure every debt was cleared off, remove dispute items, added tradeline, cleared every negative item and improved my credit score to 800s which I confirmed from the three credit sites. Thanks Tom your service is awesome

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Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Jeff L -- They sure can!

0
Jeff L Guest

Specifically for the Venture X, can a current or previous Authorized User later sign up for the same card and still receive the bonus?

0
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