August 17, 2022

Credit Card Application Rules By Issuer

When I began leveraging credit cards for travel a decade ago, there were very few…

Credit Card Application Rules By Issuer

When I began leveraging credit cards for travel a decade ago, there were very few rules restricting sign-up bonuses. I was able to apply for multiple credit cards without having to strategize around the Chase 5/24 rule or worrying about whether I was eligible for a welcome bonus. As the popularity of travel rewards credit cards has skyrocketed in the last several years, things have changed.

While the number of credit cards has increased along with the generosity of welcome bonuses, issuers have also made these cards more difficult to get. There are a litany of rules around approvals, welcome bonus eligibility and the number of cards you can have. Navigating all these rules can be confusing and quite stressful. Lucky for you, we’ve taken the guesswork out of it.

Here’s an overview of all the credit card application rules broken down by issuer:

American Express

American Express has various rules about the number of cards you can have, the number of previous applications and even how often you can receive a welcome bonus. All of this is to minimize what is known as “credit card churning”—obtaining a credit card just for the welcome bonus and canceling it within a year.

  • You can have up to five American Express credit cards and up to 10 charge cards.
  • You can earn each Amex card’s welcome bonus once per lifetime (with exceptions).
  • You can apply for up to two cards per day.

Credit card application rules

American Express has several restrictions when it comes to approving your credit card application. For starters, you can’t apply for more than two cards in a single day. This shouldn’t be an issue for most people, considering Amex imposes high spending requirements on their most lucrative welcome bonuses.

If you apply for multiple Amex credit cards in a day, you may also end up with a combined spending requirement that is unmanageable. So keep that in mind when planning out your American Express credit card application strategy.

Welcome bonus restrictions

American Express’ once-per-lifetime rule dictates that you can’t receive the welcome bonus on an Amex card more than once. So if you apply and earn the current welcome bonus on The Platinum Card® from American Express, you won’t be eligible for another bonus.

It’s important to note there are exceptions. Some reports suggest “once per lifetime” really translates to one every seven years. Others have reported receiving targeted offers that excluded this language. There are even reports of customers getting targeted for second bonuses on cards they already carry in their wallets. So while these rules serve as important guidelines, American Express doesn’t necessarily always enforce them.

Number of American Express cards you can have

American Express limits customers to five credit cards and up to 10 charge cards at a time. This is important to be aware of because you don’t want to risk a credit inquiry if you’re not eligible for an Amex card under these terms.

Bank of America

Bank of America doesn’t have a large rewards credit card line-up. However, it does offer some popular airline credit cards, like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and Free Spirit Mastercard®. So, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the bank’s credit card application rules in case a lucrative sign-up bonus comes around. Here’s an overview:

Welcome bonus restrictions

Bank of America is one of the few major banks that don’t restrict the number of times you can get a credit card sign-up bonus. You can get the same credit card sign-up bonus multiple times as long as you follow the rules outlined below.

Credit card application rules

If you’re applying for a Bank of America credit card, you need to know the 2/3/4 rule. It restricts credit card approvals as follows:

  • Two new credit cards within 30 days
  • Three new credit cards within 12 months
  • Four new credit cards within 24 months

Number of Bank of America cards you can have

This issuer does not restrict the number of Bank of America credit card accounts you can have open at a time.

Barclays

When it comes to credit card application rules, Barclays isn’t as strict as some other banks. There’s the loosely enforced 6/24 rule and a 24-month waiting period between applications for most credit cards. But, most notably, Barclays will take spending into account when considering applications from existing cardholders.

If you’ve let your Barclays credit card collect dust for a few months, you’ll want to use it a few times (and pay it off when the payment is due) to demonstrate your value as a customer. After all, banks want to issue credit cards to customers who will actually use them. Use your existing card for daily expenses and you should have no problems meeting this criteria. Here’s an overview of Barclays’ credit card applications rules:

Welcome bonus restrictions

One important rule that applies to Barclays credit cards: You can earn a sign-up bonus on the same card as long as you wait 24 months between applications. The exception is the Lufthansa Miles & More Card, which has more restrictive language in the terms stating: “This one-time offer is valid for eligible cardmembers. You may not be eligible for this offer if you currently have or previously had an account with us in this program.”

Credit card application rules

Barclays also loosely applies a 6/24 rule: If you’ve had more than six credit card applications in the last 24 months, you may not be approved for a new Barclays card. This rule doesn’t appear to be strictly enforced but could be cited as a possible reason if your application is rejected. It’s best to be safe and follow this rule if you’re applying for a new Barclays card.

Number of Barclays cards you can have

Barclays doesn’t impose a limit on the number of credit cards you can have at one time. According to reports, Barclays allows customers to apply for multiple credit cards in one day and will often process them both under a single credit inquiry. That means your credit will take a smaller hit, usually 2-5 points per application.

Capital One

Capital One doesn’t have many rules restricting credit card welcome bonuses and new card approvals. However, the bank is ramping up its credit card offerings with new products meant to attract frequent travelers.

Capital One recently introduced the new Capital One Venture X Card with an impressive welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $10,000 on purchases within the first six months from account opening. If the card’s bonus and many benefits appeal to you, you’ll want to read through the few (but important) restrictions before applying. Here’s an overview:

Welcome bonus restrictions

Capital One doesn’t publish general rules restricting welcome bonuses. However, some Capital One credit cards have language on their application pages specifying eligibility. For example, the Capital One Venture X Card has the following language on its page: “The bonus may not be available for existing or previous accountholders.”

Despite this language, many Capital One Venture cardholders have reported being approved for the Venture X Card. So while this disclosure could be used as justification to deny your application, it’s not a hard and fast rule.

There have been reports from people who apply for credit cards regularly that Capital One has denied their Venture Card applications despite meeting all the other criteria. Because of its limited line-up of rewards credit cards, Capital One seems to focus more on long-term customers and eschew those who are more likely to get a card for the welcome bonus and then cancel after the first year.

Credit card application restrictions

Capital One restricts customers to one personal and business card approval every six months. This shouldn’t be too restrictive, considering Capital One doesn’t have the same extensive card line-up as American Express, Chase or Citi. It’s still worth keeping in mind since Capital One pulls your credit from all three credit bureaus. You don’t want to incur three credit pulls multiple times a year because you weren’t aware of the six-month rule.

Number of Capital One cards you can have

Capital One limits customers to having two personal credit cards at a time. This shouldn’t be too restrictive since business cards like the Capital One Spark Miles for Business are not factored in.

Plus, Capital One currently has only two cards with substantial welcome bonuses: The Capital One Venture and the new Capital One Venture X Card. You can have one of these cards without impacting your eligibility for the other.

So it shouldn’t be too difficult to qualify for welcome bonuses under these limitations.

Chase

Chase has some of the best rewards credit cards on the market, so it’s not surprising the bank imposes multiple restrictions around approvals. There’s the infamous 5/24 rule, which limits the number of times you can earn the same sign-up bonus and the amount of credit the bank will extend to you. Here’s an overview of all the Chase credit card application rules you need to know about:

Welcome bonus restrictions

Chase limits customers from earning a welcome bonus on a card if they’ve had it in the past 24-48 months. The exact time-frame varies by card and whether you currently have that card in your wallet. The waiting period for the Southwest credit cards is 24 months, for example, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve require 48 months between welcome bonuses.

Furthermore, the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards count as one. If you have one in your wallet, you won’t get approved for the other. For example, if you applied for a Sapphire Preferred card in December 2021, you won’t qualify for another bonus until December 2023. You also won’t be eligible for it if you’re a current cardholder at the time of application—you’ll need to cancel or downgrade your card before applying.

Credit card application rules

Chase’s 5/24 rule is the most important rule to be aware of if you’re considering a new credit card. That’s because the rule limits new credit card approvals if you’ve had five or more applications within the last 24 months. This doesn’t just apply to Chase credit card applications. If you’ve had five or more at any bank, you won’t be approved for a Chase card.

Business card applications don’t factor into your 5/24 tally. So, if you’ve had multiple business card applications over the last 24 months, they won’t count towards your 5/24 status.

Overall, the 5/24 rule isn’t quite as restrictive as it sounds. You just have to be strategic when applying for credit cards. If you’re new to travel rewards and have your eye on several different credit cards, you’ll want to apply for a Chase card before anything else. Once you have your Chase card secured, you can apply for cards with other banks since most of them don’t have a similar rule in place.

Number of Chase cards you can have

Chase doesn’t currently limit the number of credit cards you can have. Instead, Chase limits the amount of credit it extends to customers. So if your credit card application gets denied because you’ve reached the credit limit, you can try asking Chase to move credit from one card to the new account. Your total available credit will remain the same, with part of it allocated to the new credit card.

Citi

When it comes to credit card application restrictions, Citi is a bit more relaxed than competitors in some regards and more strict in others. Here’s an overview of all the application rules currently in effect for Citi credit cards:

Welcome bonus restrictions

Citi restricts sign-up bonuses for each card to once every 24 months for most cards, except for the Citi AAdvantage cards. Those bonuses are limited to one per 48 months. Under these rules, you won’t be eligible for a credit card sign-up bonus if you’ve received that bonus or closed the card within 24 or 48 months.

Citi takes it a step further by applying this rule to groups of credit cards. For example, if you’re applying for a Citi Premier® Card, you’ll notice the following language on the card page:

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

So, even if this is your first time applying for a Citi Premier Card, you won’t be eligible for the welcome bonus if you received a bonus or closed one of the above cards within the last 24 months.

Credit card application rules

If you’re applying for a Citi credit card, you’ll want to keep two main rules in mind: You can’t apply for more than one card every eight days, or more than two cards within 65 days. Citi business cards have an additional limitation of one application per 90 day period.

Number of Citi cards you can have

Like Chase, Citi doesn’t limit the number of credit cards you can have open at a time but rather the amount of available credit. So if you’re denied a credit card due to the number of Citi cards you have open, try calling the reconsideration line to see if they’ll approve you after moving credit lines around.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo doesn’t have much in the way of travel rewards credit cards, which explains the lack of extensive rules around credit card approvals. As of this writing, the only hard and fast rules Wells Fargo has published are found on credit card application rules:

“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. We may also limit the total number of open Wells Fargo credit card accounts you have.”

Chances are the few rules the bank imposes on credit card approvals won’t impact you, since external bank applications aren’t factored into eligibility.

The bottom line

Whether you’re new to rewards credit cards or a seasoned pro, there are still plenty of opportunities to leverage credit card sign-up bonuses for incredible travel experiences. By familiarizing yourself with these rules (or simply consulting this guide before applying), you’ll be better suited to navigate the increasingly confusing world of credit card application rules.