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How long should you wait between new credit card applications? An expert weighs in
Applying for too many credit cards in a short time frame can negatively affect your credit score.
If you're looking to add another credit card to your wallet, it's worth thinking about how applying for and getting a new one could affect your credit score — and the likelihood of you being approved for the new card at all.
Depending on the issuer, applying for a new credit card typically results in a hard inquiry being made, which occurs when a lender pulls your credit report to determine your creditworthiness. A soft inquiry, in contrast, does not impact your credit score.
While a hard inquiry usually results in a small short-term decrease to your credit score, applying for too many credit cards in a small amount of time can be looked at negatively by lenders and decrease your credit score even more. That said, while a hard inquiry will stay on your credit report for up to two years, it will only impact your credit score for up to one year.
Below, Select speaks to Ted Rossman, a credit card industry analyst at Bankrate.com, about how long people should really wait between credit card applications.
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The general rule of thumb for new card applications
It turns out different issuers have different rules and preferences regarding how long consumers should wait between credit card applications.
Chase, for instance, is known for its 5/24 rule — in other words, the issuer rejects any applicants who have opened more than five cards across issuers within the past 24 months. Though Chase won't officially disclose which of its credit cards are subject to this rule, online speculation suggests that it applies to most if not all of them.
Capital One also has strict rules limiting consumers to just two of its cards, while they can only be approved for a new credit card every six months.
Rossman generally recommends that people wait six months to apply for a new line of credit as a hard inquiry usually results in a five to 10 point reduction for an individual's FICO credit score. Many issuers may also regard a consumer as more risky, and therefore be more likely to reject them, if they've applied for multiple lines of credit in a short amount of time.
"They [credit card issuers] do tend to frown upon more than four or five inquiries in a two year span," says Rossman. "Once you start to hit six [inquiries] or more, that can have a more negative effect on your score."
Rossman also advises people to think about what their other financial goals are before applying for a new credit card. "I would be especially cautious if you're in the market for a mortgage because those lenders can be especially nervous about recent inquiries," says Rossman. "I would really try to be on your best behavior there because that's such a big ticket item."
Improving and tracking your credit score
Whether you're interested in improving your credit score in order to get approved for a new credit card or you're hoping to make it higher after multiple credit checks were performed, there are several ways to help keep track of and raise your credit score.
Experian Boost™ is a free service that allows consumers to include their on-time utility and subscription payments in the calculation of their credit scores. By connecting to your bank account, Experian Boost will scan 24 months worth of payment history to find monthly payments for streaming services such as Netflix® or recurring utility services such as water bills.
You may also want to consider being added on as an authorized user to someone else's primary credit card account, which would allow you to piggyback off the primary cardholder's positive payment history without being responsible for the credit card bill.
Lastly, monitoring your credit report and checking your credit score regularly is very important if you're looking to get approved for a new line of credit. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — every year. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, individuals can also receive a weekly credit report from each bureau by going through the annualcreditreport.com website.
You can also use a credit monitoring service, which will alert you if fraud or other errors should ever happen on your credit report. CreditWise® from Capital One and Experian free credit monitoring are two nifty services that will monitor your credit score for free. If you're interested in more features, including Identity protection, Select ranked IdentityForce® as the best paid credit monitoring service because of its extensive security features that monitor your information on a variety of sites and services, including the dark web, court records and social media.
Improving your credit score can allow you to get approved for more premium credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which currently offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening and a ton of travel benefits. However, data suggests that you need a good to excellent credit score to get approved.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
$50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 3X points on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
21.24% - 28.24% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction fee
Generally, it's a good idea to wait about six months between credit card applications. Since applying for a new credit card will result in a slight reduction to your credit score, multiple inquiries could lead to a significantly decrease. Furthermore, filling out too many credit applications can be a red flag for issuers, so you're more likely to be approved for a new credit card if you give it some time.
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*Results may vary. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use Experian credit files, and not all lenders use scores impacted by Experian Boost.