Key takeaways

  • It’s a good idea to have more than one credit card, but applying for multiple cards within a short period of time could hurt your credit score.
  • If you apply for too many credit cards within a brief period, issuers might see you as risky borrower.
  • While you can apply for as many cards as you want, each card issuer has its own restrictions about the number of its cards you may own and how long you have to wait between applications.

One of the best ways to get the most from your credit card is to choose the right card for your needs.

Maybe you want to open a new credit card to earn cash back on everyday purchases like groceries. Or maybe you’re hoping to transfer and pay down an existing debt balance or to turn a sign-up bonus into a free flight.

Of course, it’s unlikely that a single card will make all your credit card dreams come true. As your spending habits change and your financial needs evolve, there’s a good chance you’ll want to apply for more than one credit card offer.

Be aware, however, that it’s generally not a great idea to apply for multiple credit cards all at once. In most cases, waiting between credit card applications is better for your credit score — and can even improve your chances of getting accepted.

Here’s what you need to know about timing any new credit card application.

How often should you apply for a new credit card?

The right time to apply for a new credit card is when it makes sense for you financially, with a few caveats.

If you have a cash back card but you’ve taken on a new job that requires you to travel more frequently, for example, you might want to add a travel rewards card to take advantage of those trips. Or maybe you took on some debt in the past that’s quickly accruing high interest; a new card with a great balance transfer offer could help you get back on track.

Of course, it’s also smart to know the signs of having too many credit cards. You may want to reconsider the number of credit cards you have if you’re falling behind on regular payments or if annual fees are eating up too much of your budget.

It’s also a good idea to wait at least 90 days between new credit card applications —and it’s even better if you can wait a full six months. Waiting between credit card applications helps protect your credit score from the negative effects of too many credit inquiries, and it also helps ensure that you don’t run afoul of credit card application restrictions.

Why you should wait between credit card applications

There are two primary reasons to wait between credit card applications. The first is that 10 percent of your FICO credit score is based on how much “new credit” you have.

When you apply for a credit card, the lender conducts a credit inquiry — also called a hard credit check or hard pull — on your credit report. Your credit score generally dips after each credit check, though it should bounce back fairly quickly. If there are too many recent credit inquiries on your account, your credit score could take a more significant hit. Why? Because lenders view a lot of recent credit inquiries as a signal that you might be planning on taking on a lot of debt.

The other reason to wait before applying for new credit has to do with credit card application restrictions. Some credit card issuers automatically decline credit card applications if you’ve already opened a certain number of credit cards within a specific time period.

Credit card issuer restrictions

Most credit issuers don’t formally acknowledge restrictions on how often you can be approved for new credit cards, but that doesn’t mean those restrictions don’t exist. Customers and card enthusiasts often learn about the rules through their own experiences.

Social media users and credit card sites like The Points Guy use firsthand reports about acceptances and rejections to uncover when a credit card issuer is more likely to decline your application, which provides a lot of insight into when you should apply for new credit. Like Bankrate, The Points Guy is owned by Red Ventures.

Here’s information The Points Guy has gathered about restrictions for different issuers.

American Express application restrictions

American Express limits cardholders to no more than five American Express credit cards and no more than 10 Amex cards with no preset spending limit, which used to be charge cards. American Express also reportedly limits cardholders to no more than two card applications in a single 90-day period.

Bank of America application restrictions

According to cardholder reports, Bank of America uses a 2/3/4 rule: You can only be approved for two new cards within a 30-day period, three cards within a 12-month period and four cards within a 24-month period.

This rule applies to only Bank of America® credit cards, though, and not all credit cards — so, if you’ve taken out four cards from other credit issuers in the past year, you can still apply for a new card with Bank of America.

Capital One application restrictions

Capital One reportedly limits cardholders to one new Capital One credit card every six months. You can also have only two Capital One personal credit cards open at any given time, though co-branded Capital One cards and Capital One business credit cards don’t fall under this restriction.

Chase application restrictions

Chase’s 5/24 rule is probably the best-known credit card application restriction. If you have opened five or more new credit cards in the past 24 months — whether they’re Chase credit cards or cards from another issuer — Chase will generally not accept you for a new credit card.

The 5/24 rule is in place to prevent credit card churning and to ensure that Chase’s top travel credit cards are less likely to fall into the hands of people who only want to claim a valuable sign-up bonus.

Citi application restrictions

Citi only allows one new Citi credit card application every eight days, and you cannot apply for more than two Citi credit cards within a 65-day window. You are also limited to one Citi business credit card application every 90 days.

Discover application restrictions

Reportedly, Discover limits cardholders to just one new Discover credit card per year, and no more than two Discover cards at any given time.

Wells Fargo application restrictions

According to the terms and conditions of many Wells Fargo credit cards, you may not qualify for a new Wells Fargo card if you’ve opened a Wells Fargo card in the past six months. Wells Fargo may also limit the total number of card accounts you can open.

The bottom line

Sometimes, your credit card application may be denied based on nothing more than bad timing. If your credit score is high enough for the cards you want, it’s smart to wait until you’re clear of any issuer restrictions before applying, for the best chance of acceptance.

Although waiting weeks or months between credit card applications might feel frustrating, it’s a better alternative to getting declined and losing credit score points from the hard inquiry, then having to go through the process all over again later.