Advertiser Disclosure Editorial Disclosure

The BestCards Fundamental Guide to Credit Card Application Restrictions

Hello, reader. Look at your wallet and your credit cards. Now back to this post. Back to your wallet. How many credit cards do you see? Back to this post. Do you know where to find your credit score? Have you learned the best ways to apply for credit cards? Did you know that every credit card issuer has different guidelines for their credit card applications? Read this blog post. You’ll learn everything you need to know about the restrictions that apply to credit card applications, and how they can affect your credit.

 When you, the consumer, apply for a new credit card, it’s important to remember that each application is accompanied by a hard inquiry on your credit report and that approval from the card issuer is not guaranteed. This hard inquiry can temporarily lower your credit score, so it’s best to take steps to ensure that every application you submit has a high probability of being approved. Although a denied credit card application isn’t the end of the world, when it comes to its effect on your credit score, there’s no upside – and because of this, it’s best to avoid a hard inquiry that may not benefit you in the short- or long-run. Let’s explore the world of credit card applications and the rules that apply to them – and how they vary by bank and issuer.

Yes, Restrictions (and Rules) for Credit Card Applications Vary by Bank

In today’s world of Internet, instant gratification and multiple credit card offerings, credit card issuers often allow applicants to submit their requests online, and approval can be instantaneous for folks with good- and excellent credit. However, even applicants with perfect credit can be declined for a new credit card. Why? If you notice that your credit card application has been declined, or are informed that it is “pending,” there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve run afoul of the application rules that the bank who issues your card follows. Don’t sweat it – we’ll break down the most important rules you’ll need to follow when applying for cards from the largest card issuers in the United States – namely, American Express (Amex), Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Discover, and Wells Fargo. Each card issuer named here has specific rules that they use to determine who is approved for a new credit card. Typically, you’ll need to keep the following things in mind:

  • There is a maximum number of cards that you are permitted to have in order to be approved for a new credit card, and this number varies by issuer.
  • Card issuers look at the frequency with which you apply for new credit cards. Banks are on the lookout for credit churners (people who open credit cards in order to get the introductory bonus, and then close the account after reaping the free rewards that accompany the card offer, only to repeat the process with another card soon thereafter), and multiple credit card applications within a certain timeframe may be a red flag. This also varies by issuer.
  • Banks will evaluate whether you have received a new cardmember bonus, as well as the number of new cardmember bonuses you’ve received and whether you’ve received it for the same card more than once.
  • Card issuers will also pay close attention to the amount of time between each of your applications. Some banks institute mandatory wait periods between new cardmember bonuses, while others limit the total number of bonus offers you can receive across all card offerings.

Basically, the number of existing cards you have, the number of applications you’ve submitted (as well as the timing of these applications), and the number of welcome bonuses you’ve received from a particular card issuer can either make or break your new credit card application. It’s worth noting that these are general rules – there are exceptions made quite often, and it’s generally accepted that while these rules do apply in most cases, they are not set in stone.

American Express

When it comes to applying for credit cards from American Express (Amex), keep the following information in mind:

Number of Cards

One of the first things that American Express will look at is the number of credit card accounts are open in your name, as well as how many credit cards are issued by Amex. It seems that you can have a total of five Amex credit cards open at any one time. While this number includes a combination of both personal and business credit card accounts, charge cards like the Green Card and the Platinum Card® do not generally count towards this total. Holding a corporate credit card will not count against your total limit of open card accounts with American Express.

Number, and Timing of Applications

When applying for American Express credit cards, you are limited to two applications within 90 days. You can apply for two cards in a single day – one credit card and one charge card, or two charge cards – but bear in mind that at least one application will be put on hold thanks to fraud prevention methods that Amex employs in order to protect consumers.

Welcome Bonuses

Before 2014, American Express allowed applicants to earn welcome bonuses on the exact same card, multiple times, after a grace period had passed. However, due to abuse of this courtesy by card churners, the card issuer began to restrict their customers to one bonus – per card offer – per lifetime. If you’re unsure if you qualify for the welcome bonus and apply anyways, you’re in luck – American Express has launched a tool that allows you to check your eligibility before submitting your application and subjecting yourself to a hard inquiry on your credit report. This check takes place during the application process and allows you to withdraw the application if a previous Welcome Bonus for the same or a similar offer disqualifies you. Finally, there is language on Amex’s site that states, “We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”

Bank of America

When applying for credit card offers from Bank of America (BOA), you should pay attention to the following:

Number of Cards

There is no hard number that determines the total number of Bank of America cards any one consumer can open or maintain. Applicants will not see a rejection for a card if they already have multiple credit card accounts from BOA; if their application is rejected, it is likely due to one of the reasons we will touch on next.

Number, and Timing of Applications

BOA approves applications based on what is informally known as the 2/3/4 Rule. The 2/3/4 Rule, first documented in 2017 on Reddit, essentially stipulates that you can only be approved for 2 new cards within a 2-month period; within a 12-month period, you can be approved for 3 total cards, and you can only get approved for a total of 4 new Bank of America cards within a given 24-month period. Although you will not see literature from Bank of America that explicitly states the 2/3/4 Rule, it has been iterated to customers directly over the phone by customer service reps who represent BOA. It only applies to cards issued by Bank of America, like the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Card, or the Sonesta World Mastercard® ; you can apply for cards from any other issuer in addition to the 2/3/4 cards from BOA that you submit a request for, without risking your BOA applications being declined. Remember, the bank may still take the total number of cards in your name across all issuers into consideration despite this – especially since applying for multiple cards means multiple hard inquiries, which can certainly affect chances for approval.

Welcome Bonuses

Believe it or not, Bank of America does not have any published language that could potentially restrict the number of sign-up bonuses you can cash in on. You can technically earn a welcome bonus on the same card multiple times, as long as you’re actually approved for the card multiple times and you time your applications so that they do not violate the above stipulations, particularly the 2/3/4 Rule.

Barclays

When applying to credit card offers from Barclays, it is a good idea to keep the following in mind:

Number of Cards

Generally, Barclays does not limit the number of credit cards you can have open with them at any given time. However, language on their site and card application pages suggests that they will consider your overall credit profile – including debt-to-income ratio, the total number of card accounts you have open at the time of application, and the number of hard inquiries (among other things) – when deciding if you qualify for the Barclays card you’re applying for. Credit Approval

Number, and Timing of Applications

While there are not specific rules and policies which govern new card applications with Barclays, it’s a good idea to remember a few basic principles.

    • When you apply for multiple card applications on the same day, it’s likely you will not be approved for multiple card applications on that same day. (These applications are usually lumped into a single hard inquiry, when they’re received on the same day, at least)
    • Barclays has a tendency to consider your prior spending habits on existing cards when determining approval for a new card. If you already have an open card account with Barclays and you haven’t spent much (or anything) with them, and are looking at applying for a shiny new Barclays card, dust your existing cards off and use them to make purchases for a few months before you apply.
    • If you’ve got your eye on a shiny new sign-up bonus for a card you already have, or have had recently, you can still re-apply. However, you need to cancel the existing card and allow some time to pass before you apply for the new card offer. The recommended time to wait is at least six (6) months.

Welcome Bonuses

Barclays does not have any set policies regarding whether or not applicants can earn a bonus from the same card more than once. As mentioned above, in order to receive a bonus on a credit card you’ve already held, you’ll need to close the credit card and wait six months before re-applying – and make sure that your credit score doesn’t go down, potentially disqualifying you, during that grace period.

Capital One

When looking at applications for Capital One cards, bear in mind that:

Number of Cards

Capital One has a strict limit to the number of personal credit cards each consumer can have open with them at any given time; cardholders are restricted to two (2) personal cards from Capital One. While this rule does not apply to most co-branded cards or small business cards like the Spark® Cash for Business Card, it does apply to all cards that Capital One manages directly. This means that if you already have credit cards like Capital One’s Quicksilver® Card or the ubiquitous Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card , you’ll be unable to get approval for a third card.

Number, and Timing of Applications

Capital One is notorious for limiting consumers to one (1) new credit card application every six months; this evens out to a total of two (2) new credit card applications per consumer, per year, when applying to Capital One card offers. While this does indicate that if you apply for the Venture card today, you’ll need to wait six months before you apply for the Spark® Miles card, your patience will be rewarded since you’ll still be able to apply for the next card on your list after waiting.

Welcome Bonuses

Capital One, like Barclays, has been known in the past to award sign-up bonuses multiple times for the same card, when the applicant follows the stipulations we’ve laid out above and has sufficient credit to be approved. Their website does contain verbiage on the card application pages that gives them a way out, however: specifically, “The bonus may not be available for existing or previous account holders.” While this vague language does not explicitly state that current cardholders absolutely cannot receive the welcome bonus described for the card they hold, it does give them wiggle room to deny you the bonus – something to take into consideration when applying. Capital One Welcome Bonus Sign-up Bonus

Chase

Chase is well-known both for their desirable credit card offers and their extremely stringent approval policies. Here’s what you need to know when applying for a Chase credit card:

Number of Cards

Chase does not limit the total number of Chase-issued credit cards a consumer can have in their name. That said, the more credit cards you’ve opened through chase, the less likely you are to be approved for new applications due to a separate stipulation from the bank: Chase has a habit of restricting the total credit they extend to you across all of your Chase card accounts. They will evaluate your spending habits, your income, your debt-to-income ratio, and other factors – including the total number of cards you have – when determining this. If they decide to cap your total credit at $100,000 and you currently own four cards with a limit of $25,000 each, odds are they will not approve you for a fifth card – not because you have too many cards, but because you’d exceed the total credit limit they’ve assigned to you. Luckily, if you discover that your application for that shiny, wonderful fifth card has been declined, you can appeal by calling Chase’s reconsideration line and requesting that they shift your credit lines in order to accommodate a fifth card within the total credit limit you’re receiving from them. The number to call is: 1-888-245-0625.

Number, and Timing of Applications

If you’re just starting to get into the world of credit cards and managing rewards cards, odds are you’ll have no issue applying for your first or even second Chase card – as long as your credit file qualifies you for the offer. A general rule of thumb with chase is that you can apply for one personal card, and one business card, within 90 days. However, folks who have multiple credit cards, and anyone who has applied for multiple credit cards (or has had multiple hard inquiries to their credit report) recently, will need to take note of what has become known as the 5/24 Rule. This guideline has helped Chase become known as one of the strictest card issuers in the credit card space, and here’s why:

    • If you’ve opened five or more credit cards with any issuer – not just Chase – within the last 24 months, you will not be approved for most Chase-issued cards.
    • Chase looks at every account, across all card issuers, when you apply for one of their credit cards. Hypothetically, if you’ve already opened two Capital One cards, two cards with Barclay, and one with Bank of America within the last two years , your application for a Chase card will be denied simply because you’re in violation of this 5/24 rule, and the Chase card you’re submitting an application in would be card #6.

If you’re an authorized user for someone else’s card, you may still run afoul of this rule. You may be able to convince Chase to reconsider your application by calling the toll number listed above and explaining to them that you are an authorized user on one of the “new” accounts in your credit file, but there’s no guarantee this will work.

Welcome Bonuses

Chase also has rules that restrict the number of sign-up bonuses an individual can earn from their credit cards. Generally, if you currently hold a specific card, or if you earned a welcome bonus from that specific card you’re applying for within the last 24 months, your application will be denied. The exact language used on Chase’s site (in this case, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card’s Offer Details page) is: “This product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this credit card, or (ii) previous card members of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.” Chase Welcome Bonus Terms Luckily, the 24-month waiting period starts when you receive the sign-up bonus, so if you cancel a card in order to reapply for it, you may not need to wait two years to apply again. There are some slight variations to this policy, however – for example, if you have one of the two Sapphire card offerings from Chase (either the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card), you will not qualify for a bonus from the other nor can you get the bonus for one if you’ve earned a bonus for the other within 24 months of your application. This variation also applies to the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards, and the Marriott Rewards Premier card offerings; however, it does not apply to applicants who hold the business versions of these co-branded credit cards from Chase – only if you hold a personal credit card from one of these programs.

Citibank

Citibank is a popular card issuer with a variety of desirable credit cards for consumers to choose from. Here’s what you should keep in mind when submitting an application for a Citi card:

Number of Cards

Citibank (Citi) does not limit the overall number of credit cards you can have in your wallet at any given time. Like Chase, they instead limit the overall credit that is extended across all of your Citi cards. If you apply to a new Citi card and you’ve already met the credit limit they have assigned you, you will likely need to agree to shift the existing limits on your open accounts to accommodate the new card.

Number, and Timing of Applications

Citi has clear-cut rules about the number of times an individual can apply for a new card, and how frequently. These rules differ slightly for personal credit card applications vs business card applications:

    • Each individual can apply for one personal card every eight days; no more than two personal credit card applications will be considered in a 65-day window.
    • Individuals may only apply for one business card every 95 days.

Welcome Bonuses

Citibank is one of the credit issuers that allows you to earn a welcome bonus multiple times for the same credit card; you simply will need to allow a waiting period to pass between cancelling your open card, and re-applying for the same card offer. Citi requires that you wait 24 months from either opening, or closing, the card. For example, the Citi Rewards+ Card states the following: Citi Sign Up Bonus This stipulation can be found in the terms and conditions for each of Citi’s credit cards that offer a welcome or sign-up bonus.

Discover

Although they don’t make it easy to determine what restrictions are placed on card applications by Discover, if you look hard enough you can still discover useful information that will help when applying for a credit card through this issuer:

Number of Cards

Discover limits cardholders to two total Discover accounts at a time. The first card must be active, and in good standing, for a full year before a second card can be applied for. Basically, individuals can apply for one credit card from Discover per year.

Number, and Timing of Applications

At this time, there is not sufficient information available on Discover’s website to determine if Discover places restrictions insofar as the total number of applications they will consider in any given timeframe. BestCards recommends waiting one year before submitting a new application, based on the limit described above.

Welcome Bonuses

At this time, there is not sufficient information available on Discover’s website to determine if Discover places restrictions on the number of welcome/sign-up bonuses that cardholders can receive for a given card offer.

Wells Fargo

While Wells Fargo is considered to be a relatively small card issuer when compared to behemoth companies like American Express, they do have a total of seven very popular credit card offers available to consumers. Here’s what you should know when applying for them:

Number of Cards

Wells Fargo does not limit the number of credit cards you can have. You can technically own each of their seven cards simultaneously. However, Wells Fargo does have a reputation as being a “relationship-based” bank, meaning that if you do not already have an established banking relationship with them – an open Wells Fargo checking or savings account, for example – your Wells Fargo credit card application may not be approved.

Number, and Timing of Applications

Wells Fargo’s terms and conditions pages display explicit language regarding the number of applications you can have with the bank; consumers are limited to one card application every 6 months. As seen on the Cash Wise Visa® Card terms page, “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.” Wells Fargo Signup Bonus

Welcome Bonuses

As you can see from the above screenshot, taken from Wells Fargo’s website, there is also language that addresses sign-up bonus offers as well. This is actually included in the terms in two different places, which means Wells Fargo wants consumers to pay attention to this restriction in particular. Essentially, if you have opened a new Wells Fargo Credit Card and received an introductory offer – be it an intro APR, waived fee, and/or a points or cash-back reward – within 15 months of applying for your next card, you will likely be disqualified for a new welcome bonus. Basically, new applicants should not expect to receive a welcome bonus from Wells Fargo unless they wait at least 15 months before applying for a new card. Waiting 15 months will also ensure that you have passed the 6-month waiting period that Wells Fargo implements for consumers who apply for multiple Wells Fargo credit cards.

About: Allan
Allan Guzman Chinchilla

Allan is the Managing Editor at BestCards.com. In addition to leading a robust team of writers in the pursuit of thorough credit cards expertise, he is an avid fan of films, food, traveling, and Star Wars.