Can I cancel a credit card application?

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Applying for a new credit card can be stressful—but it gets even more stressful when you realize that you’ve just applied for a credit card that you don’t actually want.

Maybe the credit card issuer offers two credit cards with similar names and you accidentally chose the wrong one. Maybe you applied for one of today’s best credit cards and then wished you’d picked a card with a different sign-up bonus. Maybe you’re worried that taking out a new credit card will tempt you into going into credit card debt that you can’t pay off.

Can you cancel a credit card application? If you’re regretting your recent credit card application, you might be able to get your credit card application canceled—but only if you are able to contact your credit issuer before they make their application decision. Let’s take a close look at how to cancel a credit card application, what to do if you can’t cancel your application and whether you should cancel a new credit card that you no longer want.

How to cancel a credit card application

It might be possible to cancel a credit card application—but you have to act fast. In many cases, it takes credit issuers just a few minutes to complete a hard credit inquiry on your account and decide whether to approve your application. By then, it will be too late to request that your application be canceled.

Here’s how to cancel a credit card application: Call the credit issuer’s customer service line, talk to a representative and ask them to cancel your application. If the bank or credit card company has not yet made a decision on whether to accept or decline your application—perhaps because your application is currently pending or under review—the customer service representative might be able to cancel your credit card application.

However, it is very likely that your credit card application will be approved or denied before you have the opportunity to cancel it. Credit issuers make application decisions very quickly—so when you apply for a new credit card, it’s important to make sure you’re applying for a card you really want. Since every new credit application comes with a hard credit inquiry that can lower your credit score by a few points, it’s to your advantage to make as few credit application mistakes as possible.

What to do if you can’t cancel a credit card application

If you can’t cancel a credit card application, you have three options.

1. Use the new credit card

It might not have the best credit card rewards or the 0 percent intro APR offer that you could have gotten from another credit card, but if you use your new credit card responsibly, it can still help you build a solid credit history and improve your credit score.

2. Request a credit card swap

If your new credit card charges an annual fee, for example, you could call your credit card issuer and ask to switch to the no-annual-fee version of the same card. You might even be able to swap a credit card that offers travel rewards for a credit card that offers cash-back rewards, as long as both cards are offered by the same issuer. All you have to do is contact your credit card company’s customer service department and ask.

3. Cancel the card

If you don’t want your credit card and you don’t want to try to switch it for a different credit card, your third option is to cancel your new credit card. Canceling an unused credit account has its pros and cons, as we’ll discuss below.

Should you cancel a new credit card?

You can’t decline a credit card after being accepted, but you can always cancel your new credit card if you don’t want the new credit account. Canceling a new credit card might be the right move if you are worried about going into debt that you can’t pay off. In other cases, canceling your brand-new credit card might not be the wisest choice.

Canceling your new line of credit will reduce the total amount of credit available to you, which could have a negative effect on your credit score. Since 30 percent of your FICO credit score is based on your credit utilization ratio (defined as the ratio of your available credit to your current debts), adding a new credit card could lower your credit utilization ratio and improve your credit score.

If you want to cancel a new credit card, there is a simple process you can follow to cancel your credit card account.

  1. Make sure any outstanding balances on the credit card are paid off in full or transferred to another credit card.
  2. Call the number on the back of your credit card and request to cancel the account.
  3. Follow up the phone call with a certified letter confirming your request to cancel.
  4. Check your credit reports with the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to confirm that your credit account is being reported as closed.
  5. Destroy the credit card to prevent credit card fraud.

However, you might want to consider keeping your new credit card—even if you’re not satisfied with the APR or the rewards structure. If you use your credit card responsibly and pay off your statement balances before your grace period expires, you won’t have to pay interest on your purchases. If you wish you had taken out a credit card with different rewards or better perks, you can still apply for that card in the future. It’s best to wait three to six months before applying to increase your chance of being accepted.

Bottom line

Can you cancel a credit card application? Maybe—but only if you are able to contact customer service before the bank or credit card company makes its approval decision. In many cases, credit card applications are approved or declined within minutes, making it difficult to cancel a credit card application.

If you apply for a credit card, get approved and decide you no longer want the card, you can request to swap the card for another card offered by the same issuer. You can also cancel the new credit card, but that could have negative effects on your credit score. Keeping the credit card and using it responsibly might be your best option.