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Many of today’s best credit cards are designed for people with good or excellent credit — which means that if you have a FICO credit score of 670 or above, your credit card application should automatically be accepted, right?
Not necessarily. In some cases, credit card issuers may choose to reject your application even if you have a good or excellent credit score.
Getting denied for a credit card even though you have good credit might surprise you — but it happens more often than you think. Here’s what to know about how credit issuers make their application decisions, and what you can do if you are turned down for a credit card with a good credit score.
Issuers consider factors outside of your credit score
Each credit card issuer considers a number of factors before deciding whether to approve or reject a credit card application. Your credit score plays a big part in an issuer’s decision, but there are other aspects that are equally worth considering.
You may have a negative mark in your credit history, for example, indicating a previous credit mistake — and the derogatory mark might make it more difficult for you to get approved for new lines of credit, even if you’ve successfully rebuilt your credit score since the mark was added.
You may also have a history of high credit utilization. If you consistently max out your credit cards, for example, issuers may be hesitant to offer you new credit even if you always make your payments on time.
Or maybe you’ve applied for too much new credit within a short time period. In general, it’s a good idea to wait at least 90 days between applications, and some credit card issuers automatically decline new credit requests made before a specific amount of time has elapsed. Keep in mind that credit card issuers can access all of your previous credit card applications — which means that Chase will know if you recently applied for a Bank of America credit card, and vice versa.
Finally, you may not have the recommended income associated with the credit card. Some elite credit cards are designed for people with higher-than-average household incomes, and issuers may hesitate before accepting a cardholder who falls short of the income guidelines — even if you have good or excellent credit.
Basic legal barriers to getting a card
The Credit CARD Act of 2009 does not allow credit card issuers to accept applicants under age 21 unless they have a cosigner or proof of sufficient income. And no one under the age of 18 can be approved. This is one of the reasons many parents make their teenage, college-age or twenty-something children authorized users on their credit cards, allowing them to build a positive credit history before they are in a position to get a credit card of their own. But even the best credit history in the world won’t help your credit card application if you’re not yet 18. And it’s still going to be difficult to qualify between the ages of 18 and 20 due to proof-of-income requirements.
Many credit card issuers also require you to provide a Social Security number, making it more difficult for people who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to access credit. That said, some credit issuers like American Express and Citi allow you to provide an Individual Tax Identification Number — or ITIN — instead of a Social Security number, making it easier for non-citizens and undocumented immigrants to access credit and begin building good credit scores.
Other reasons you might be denied for a card
Among the reasons you might be denied for a credit card with good credit is issuer restrictions. Many credit card issuers have rules that automatically decline new applications after the cardholder has a certain number of credit cards with a given bank, though they don’t always advertise the limit. Anecdotally, for instance, Capital One limits cardholders to five personal “prime” — that is, non-starter — credit cards at any one time.
Other issuers automatically decline applications if you have taken out too many credit cards at any bank within a specific time period. Chase, for example, famously limits cardholders to five new credit cards within the past 24 months — a restriction commonly called the Chase 5/24 rule. This restriction applies regardless of issuer, meaning that you could get denied for a Chase credit card even if your other five credit cards were issued by Amex, Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Capital One.
What to do next
If you have a good credit score but were denied a credit card, you may be wondering what to do next. Luckily, you won’t have to wait very long to find out why you were denied — and from there, you have options.
Figure out why you were denied
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other important credit legislation, credit card issuers are required to send you a letter explaining why your credit card application was denied. This letter, often called an “adverse action letter,” should list the reasons why your application was not approved — and is likely to provide some insight into why you were turned down for a credit card even with a good credit score.
Once you have your adverse action letter, you may want to consider contacting customer support with your credit card issuer. If you were turned down due to your income, for example, you might be able to explain why you should be considered for the card even with a lower-than-average household income. If you were turned down due to a negative mark from years ago, you might be able to argue that your recent credit history should qualify you for reconsideration.
If you already have a card or two with that issuer, they might have denied you because they don’t want to extend you more credit. In that case, a call to customer service could result in the issuer reducing one of your credit limits and moving that amount over to the new card so you can be approved.
While some credit card issuers may not change their minds, it’s still worth having a conversation with customer service about why you were declined and what you might need to do to make your application more successful in the future. Don’t be afraid to call more than once if you’re having trouble finding a representative who is willing to talk to you.
Reapply for the card
If you can successfully address the reasons why you were declined, you may want to reapply for the credit card down the road. This is particularly important if your income increases, which could make you a more attractive applicant — or if you pay off a significant amount of credit card debt, which could help prove that you can use credit responsibly.
If you were declined for a credit card due to issuer restrictions like Chase’s 5/24 Rule, it won’t make sense to reapply until the rule no longer applies to you.
Still, there are a few situations in which re-applying for the credit card could be your best move, so keep that in mind as you decide what to do next.
Find a suitable alternative card
You may also want to apply for a different credit card — another travel credit card, for example, or an alternative cash back rewards card. You can use services like Bankrate’s CardMatch to help determine which cards might be a good fit.
Keep in mind that applying for too much new credit could have a negative effect on your credit score, especially if all of your applications fall within a short period. Try to wait at least 90 days between credit card applications, and use what you know about why you got declined for your previous card to make a smart choice about which card to apply for next. If necessary, consider calling customer service to discuss your options — or, if possible, requesting credit card preapproval before applying.
The bottom line
You’ve done all the right things if you’re sitting on a good or excellent credit score, and you should be proud of that. It’s frustrating when your responsible habits and hard work still don’t achieve the card approval results you want. Remind yourself that card issuers consider more than just your credit score when making approval decisions, and your denial could be nothing more than bad timing.
Take the information the issuer offers you about why you were declined, and make smart moves and wise decisions for your next card application. You’ll find the right card for you in no time.