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Credit card application rules and restrictions to know before applying

When applying for a new credit card, you want to do everything in your power to increase your odds of being approved. But sometimes, even having an excellent credit score isn’t enough to get an approval.

Most banks and credit card issuers have specific policies that determine whether or not you’re eligible for a new card, and it’s wise to be aware of them. If not, you might find yourself not getting approved or, being approved but not eligible to get the sign-up bonus of points, miles, or cash back.

In this article, we’ll walk through some of the application policies of some of the major credit card issuers.

One important note: Only some of these are “official” policies that are mentioned in the terms and conditions for relevant credit cards. Other rules are not officially publicized by the issuer but have been well documented by applicant data. For example, even the Chase 5/24 rule, which is one of the most well-known application restrictions, is not actually documented anywhere on Chase’s website.

American Express

With American Express, the most important application policy to be aware of is that you will only get one welcome offer per card in your lifetime.

This rule is in the terms and conditions when you go to apply – “Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card”. Different varieties of cards are counted separately, so for example if you’ve gotten a welcome offer on the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, you would still be eligible for an offer on the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card. You can also receive a welcome offer on the different varieties of the American Express Platinum Card, like the The Platinum Card® from American Express and the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

Another thing to keep in mind is that American Express has a limit on the total number of Amex cards you have open at any time. That limit has historically been five cards, but there are reports that it may now be four cards.

You will also not be approved for more than one American Express card in a five-day period and no more than two cards within a 90-day period.

See our guide to the best American Express cards »

Bank of America

Bank of America has a 2/3/4 rule, which states that you will only be approved for:

  • Two new cards in any rolling two-month period
  • Three new cards in any rolling 12-month period
  • Four new cards in any rolling 24-month period

So if you’re looking to get multiple cards from Bank of America, you’ll want to space out your applications accordingly.

Additionally, many Bank of America cards have language similar to the following, from the terms and conditions of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card: “This card may not be available to you if you currently have or have had the card in the preceding 24 month period.”

Barclaycard

Barclays doesn’t have any published criteria regarding applications. Many cards have language such as this one found in the terms and conditions of the JetBlue Plus card:

“You may not be eligible for this offer if you currently have or previously had an account with us in this program”

Barclaycard is known to be fairly conservative when it comes to approving new applicants. The more other credit cards you have, with Barclays or with any bank, the harder it will generally be to get an approval.

Capital One

You can only have two personal credit cards open with Capital One, and applications for any additional cards will be denied. The issuer also limits you to one application (personal or business) every six months.

Capital One pulls from all three credit bureaus when you apply for one of its cards. So if you’re keeping a close eye on the number of hard pulls on your credit report to make sure your credit score doesn’t dip too much in the short term, keep that in mind when applying for a card with Capital One.

See our guide to the best Capital One credit cards »

Chase

Chase is well-known for its 5/24 rule, which states that if you have been approved for five or more cards from any bank over the past 24 months, you will not be approved for a Chase card.

Chase will also limit you to two new personal cards and one new business card within any 30-day rolling period. It will also often limit the total amount of credit that they are willing to extend to you. So if you have many different Chase cards, you may be denied initially because of this policy. In this case, you can then call the Chase reconsideration line (1-888-270-2127) and ask to lower your credit limit on another card in order to free up enough of a limit for your new card application.

Chase also limits how often you can get the welcome offer on its cards, and it usually does so by family. This limit is 24 months for most cards, and 48 months for the Sapphire family of cards. This date is measured by the time since you received the bonus for the card, not from the date of application.

Most cards will have this spelled out in the terms and conditions when you apply. Here’s what it looks like for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

“The product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card who received a new cardmember bonus within the last 48 months.”

See our guide to the best Chase credit cards »

Citi

Citi has different rules on the timing of applying for cards based on whether you’re looking at a a personal or a business card. For personal Citi cards, you can apply for one card every eight days and two cards every 65 days. For business cards, you can apply for one card every 95 days.

Additionally, to be eligible for the welcome offer on Citi-branded cards like the Citi Prestige® Credit Card or Citi Premier℠ Card, you can’t have received a bonus or closed one of the cards in the past 24 months.

Here’s the language from the landing page of the Citi Premier application page.

“Bonus ThankYou® Points are not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+SM, Citi ThankYou® Preferred, Citi ThankYou® Premier/Citi PremierSM or Citi Prestige®, or if you have closed any of these accounts, in the past 24 months.”

For American Airlines co-branded credit cards issued by Citi, the restrictions are slightly different— you can receive a new bonus every 48 months for each different type of card. For example:

“American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have received a new account bonus for a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® account in the past 48 months.”

This is usually prominently displayed on the application page, so you’ll know what to expect.

See our guide to the best Citi credit cards »

Discover

You’re limited to a total of two Discover credit cards open at any time. Additionally, your first card has to be open for at least one year before you’ll be approved for a second card. Other than that, Discover doesn’t have any other limitations on being approved or receiving the welcome offer on cards.

Read more: Discover has a unique program that matches your credit card rewards after your first year, and it couldn’t be easier to use

US Bank

US Bank doesn’t have any published rules on new credit card applications for most of their cards. The only stated rule applies to the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card and that states that in order to be approved for that card you will need an established banking relationship with US Bank.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo doesn’t have a limit on the total number of credit cards that you can have. However, they do have limits on how often you can be approved for new credit cards. Most Wells Fargo cards contain fine print along the lines of this from the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card:

“You may not qualify for an additional Wells Fargo Credit Card if you have opened a Wells Fargo Credit Card in the last 6 months.”

Additionally, Wells Fargo limits how often you can get a welcome offer on a new card. Again from the terms and conditions of the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card:

“You may not be eligible for introductory annual percentage rates, fees, and/or bonus rewards offers if you opened a Wells Fargo Credit Card within the last 15 months from the date of this application and you received introductory APR(s), fees, and/or bonus rewards offers — even if that account is closed and has a $0 balance.”

 

Source: Business Insider