Maybe you just got yet another credit card offer in the mail, or maybe a Facebook ad promised 50,000 bonus credit card miles for signing up for a new card. If you’re thinking about accepting the offer, take a second and think carefully. It’s tempting to take advantage of the many credit card offers on the market, but trying to take out too many new credit cards comes at a steep cost.
Applying for credit cards frequently can hurt your credit, makes it difficult to qualify for credit lines and loans, and violates many card issuer rules. To maximize your credit card benefits, find out how long you should wait between card applications and what you need to consider before trying to land your next card.
Table of Contents
How long should I wait to apply for another credit card?
In general, you should wait 6 months between credit card applications. If you’re in a pinch, you can reduce that time to 90 days. However, you might not be eligible for cards from the same credit card issuer, and your frequent applications will hurt your chances of getting approved.
This limit of 90 days to 6 months isn’t a hard rule—just a guideline. Technically, you can apply for as many credit cards as you want, as frequently as you want. However, you’re not likely to get approved for those cards. Even worse, you’ll damage your credit score in the process.
How often should I get a new credit card?
There’s no universal standard for how often you should get a new credit card, but passing the 6-month limit doesn’t automatically mean you should send out an application. As a general rule, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends only applying for new credit when you actually need it. 1
If you apply for credit too frequently, lenders may suspect that your financial situation is precarious and you pose a risk as a borrower.
Good reasons to apply for a new credit card
It’s probably worth opening a new credit card in the following situations:
- You’re a young adult and are ready to open your first credit card. (If you’re enrolling in a 2-or-4-year degree program, consider opening a student credit card.)
- You just closed an old card and are ready to open a new one.
- You want to upgrade from a secured credit card to an unsecured card.
- Your credit score has improved and you qualify for better credit card deals.
- You need a higher credit limit to improve your credit utilization rate (which will boost your credit score).
- You’re performing a balance transfer and need a 0% APR card or one with lower interest rates.
Everyone’s situation is different, and reasons for applying for new credit vary. However, you should definitely only apply if your finances are stable—don’t get new credit cards just to have more spending power if you’re unable to pay off your balances every month.
Why should I wait between credit card applications?
You should wait 90 days to 6 months between credit card applications for three reasons.
1. Applying for cards can hurt your credit score
Multiple credit card applications can damage your credit score. This is because when you apply for a new card, the lender will check your credit by performing a hard inquiry, also called a hard pull.
Hard inquiries take up to 5 points off your credit score and can impact your credit for 12 months. The inquiry itself will appear on your report for a full 2 years. 2
While a hard inquiry here and there isn’t a big deal, piling up multiple hard inquiries in a short period can be dangerous for your credit score. Additionally, having too many hard inquiries on your credit report can be a red flag for lenders, even without the effect on your score.
If you’re worried about credit checks, consider applying for a card that doesn’t perform one when you apply.
2. You may violate credit card application restrictions
Credit card issuers sometimes have rules on how often you can apply for new cards and how many of their credit cards you can have open at all.
If you’re applying for multiple cards with an issuer that has application restrictions, they’ll automatically reject you if you violate their limits. Not only will you miss out on getting the credit card you want, but you’ll have knocked multiple points off your credit score for no reason.
Beware that many credit card companies don’t advertise their application limits. However, it’s possible to figure out some issuers’ limits and rules based on anecdotes collected online. While you can get an idea of common restrictions below, we still recommend proceeding with caution if you want to apply for multiple cards from the same issuer.
Application restrictions by major credit card issuers
Here are some of the restrictions that major credit card issuers are believed to have:
|Credit card issuer||How many credit cards you can have open in total||Application restrictions||Welcome bonus restrictions|
|American Express||5||2 credit cards / 90 days||You cannot qualify for a welcome offer you’ve previously received|
|Bank of America||N/A||2 credit cards / 30 days
3 credit cards / 12 months
4 credit cards / 24 months
|Capital One||2||1 credit card / 6 months||You cannot qualify for a welcome offer you’ve previously received|
|Chase||N/A||5 credit cards / 24 months (regardless of credit card issuer)||N/A|
|Citi||N/A||1 credit card / 8 days
2 credit cards / 65 days
|Eligible for welcome bonuses only once every 24 months
Eligible for welcome bonuses on American Airline credit cards once every 48 months
|Discover||2 credit cards
1 student credit card
|1 credit card / 12 months||N/A|
|Wells Fargo||N/A||1 credit card / 6 months||You will not be eligible for a welcome bonus or introductory offer (including 0% APR) if you’ve opened a credit card in the last 15 months|
Remember that these rules aren’t advertised by the card issuer, but collected through anecdotal evidence. Credit card companies may change their restrictions at any time.
Furthermore, even if you haven’t exceeded these limits, it’s no guarantee that your application will be successful—you still may be rejected because of frequent applications even if you haven’t exceeded the official limit.
Why do credit card issuers have application restrictions?
It makes sense to keep people from applying for too many cards because frequent applications suggest you might be in financial trouble. Moreover, application restrictions prevent credit card churning, which is when people open and close credit accounts just to score welcome bonuses and rewards.
Not only is credit churning bad for your credit score and future borrowing prospects, but increasing restrictions have made it extremely difficult to pull off.
3. You may hurt your chances of qualifying for credit cards and loans
As mentioned, multiple credit applications in a short period of time are red flags with lenders.
Applying for too many lines of credit signals a change in your financial situation—presumably for the worse. This makes lenders think that you’re a borrowing risk. You look like somebody whose expenses have recently increased or whose income has decreased (or both).
Basically, applying for a lot of cards makes you look like someone that won’t pay off their debts.
Not only will this affect your ability to get the credit cards you’re applying for, but it can also hurt your chances of securing other new credit, such as loans. Even if you do qualify for new credit, you may get offered worse borrowing terms (like higher interest rates and fees).
How credit card applications affect your credit score
We’ve already established that frequent credit card applications can hurt your credit score by saddling you with multiple hard inquiries.
If your application is successful and you actually open the new card, it will also affect your credit score in several other ways.
Negative effects on your credit score
Opening a new credit card can cause a drop in your credit score because it:
- Lowers your average credit age: The length of your credit history is a factor in your credit score. Opening a new card will lower the average age of your accounts, which will hurt your score. This is especially true if you’re a relatively recent borrower or have a thin credit history.
- Adds to your new credit: Opening new accounts affects a credit scoring factor called new credit, which determines roughly 10% of your score. Opening a new account generally lowers your score, at least temporarily.
Positive effects on your credit score
The effects of getting a new card aren’t purely negative. It can also benefit your credit because it:
- Changes your credit mix: Your credit mix, another credit scoring factor, is the variety of credit accounts you have open. Adding another credit card account can diversify your credit mix, especially if you previously didn’t have any credit cards, which will boost your credit score.
- Impacts your credit utilization: Your credit utilization is the amount of your total credit that you’re currently using. By adding more available credit to your total, you can potentially lower your utilization rate (if you limit your spending on your new card), which will improve your credit score.
In general, the net effect on your credit from opening a new card will be negative—at least at first. If you keep your card open and use it responsibly, in six months to a year, this will even out and the net effect will become positive as the account ages.
What to consider before applying for a new credit card
As you’ve seen, frequently applying for new credit comes with considerable risks, so you should only apply for a new credit card when you actually need one.
In order to make the most out of your limited applications, consider the following before you commit to a card:
Make sure you know the best time to apply
There’s a good time and a bad time to apply for a new credit card. You shouldn’t apply for a new credit card if you:
- Were recently rejected for another card: Wait 6 months and improve your credit in the meantime. Alternatively, consider becoming an authorized user or applying for a secured credit card instead.
- Are applying for another loan: Remember that multiple credit applications look bad to lenders, so you could hurt your chances of getting approved or getting the rates you want.
- Are struggling financially: If you’re unemployed or find yourself in an unstable financial situation, now probably isn’t the best time to apply for a new credit card.
- Have outstanding debts on other credit cards: If you’re struggling to pay off your credit card debt as it is, hold off on applying for new cards until you’ve settled your current balances (unless you’re specifically opening a balance transfer credit card to make that easier).
What’s the best time of year to apply for a new credit card?
If you want to apply for a credit card—particularly a rewards card—it’s often best to do so at the end or beginning of the calendar year. That’s especially true if the card you want bases its rewards off the calendar (by, say, point matching on a yearly basis, or offering bonus rewards for quarterly spending categories).
Check the terms of the card ahead of time and time your application to make the most of your rewards.
Compare interest rates, terms, and rewards
Every time you apply for a new credit card, thoroughly review the card’s rates and terms before submitting an application. You especially want to check the following to determine which credit card is your best option:
- Purchase APR (aka the annual credit card interest rate)
- Other APRs (including for balance transfers, cash advances, and penalties)
- Fees (like the annual fee, monthly fees, and foreign transaction fees)
- Rewards rates, redemption options, and limits
- Welcome bonuses
- Introductory offers (e.g., intro APR or waived fees)
- Authorized user terms and fees
- Whether the card features a grace period
- Borrowing terms and conditions
If you’re having trouble finding this information on the credit card issuer’s website, you can call customer service directly or look up the credit card’s schumer box, which lists the rates and fees. You can find any credit card’s schumer box by searching the Consumer Finance credit card agreement database.
Understand where your credit stands
To determine which credit cards you can qualify for, you need to know what’s on your credit reports and what your credit score is.
You can download a free copy of your credit report by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. There are other credit monitoring sites and services that offer your credit report or credit scores, some of which are free and some of which are paid.
Don’t worry about doing this before you apply—checking your credit score won’t lower it. In fact, you should check your score regularly even if you’re not planning on taking out a new credit card.