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The application process for credit cards can be either exciting or frustrating, and knowing the rules makes all the difference. An approval for a new rewards credit card will put you well on your way to earning free flights, hotel stays, or cashback.
On the other hand, a denial letter does nothing except temporarily decrease your credit score due to the hard inquiry performed by the card issuer.
So in order to set you up for success, let's cover the rules for the major credit card issuers. The most important policies we will cover are:
- the total number and types of credit cards each bank will issue to each individual
- the timing considerations between applications
- and the welcome bonus eligibility, or how long you have to wait between getting a bonus on the same card
Credit Card Application Rules By Bank
It is important to know there are no guarantees for approval, and there will always be exceptions to the rules. Nonetheless, even though the majority of these parameters are not formally stated or set in stone, these guidelines will greatly increase your chances on getting approved and not hurting your credit score unnecessarily.
|Bank||Max # of Cards||Velocity of Applications||Bonuses Eligibility|
|American Express||5 credit cards, unlimited charge cards||1 card every 5 days, 2 credit cards every 90 days||Once per “lifetime” (maybe 7 years?)|
|Chase||No limit||5/25 – Max 5 cards in 24 months, 2 cards every 30 days||Every 24-48 months|
|Bank of America||No limit||2/3/4 – 2 cards every 2 months, 3 every 12 mo., 4 every 24 mo.||24 months|
|Barclaycard||No limit||No restrictions||6 months|
|Capital One||2 personal cards, unlimited business||1 card every 6 mos.||12 months|
|Citi||No limit||1 personal card every 8 days, 2 every 65 days. 1 biz card every 95 days.||48 months|
|US Bank||No limit||No restrictions||Unknown|
|Wells Fargo||No limit||No restrictions||16 months|
American Express Application Rules
American Express limits the number of credit cards you can have to 5 AMEX credit cards. These can be a mix of either personal or business cards. Here's my exact recommended order to apply for AMEX cards as a military servicemember. And here's my favorite AMEX cards.
This 5 AMEX credit card limit does not apply to charge cards. You can have unlimited AMEX charge cards. I know military families with more than 11 AMEX Platinum cards. Personally, I have over 5.
Charge cards, like the American Express Platinum (AMEX Platinum military review) and AMEX Gold (AMEX Gold military review) cards, are different from credit cards in that they have no fixed spending limit.
You’re also supposed to pay the balance off in full every month, but American Express’s Pay Over Time feature allows you to carry the balance and pay interest just like you would with a credit card. However, carrying a balance is never advised as the interest you’ll pay will negate any of your hard-earned rewards.
It is possible to be approved for two cards in a single day, and if you’re lucky it will only result in one hard inquiry. However, you cannot be approved for two credit cards in a single day.
At least one, or both, must be a charge card. Furthermore, you can be approved for up to three cards in a 90 day period, with at least one being a charge card.
You can receive the AMEX welcome bonus for each card once per lifetime. The only exceptions to this rule are if there is a product change and the card rebrands itself, or if you see an offer without the lifetime language in the terms and description fine print.
If you see this:
“Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”AMEX lifetime language
Then you cannot get another welcome offer on this card if you got it before.
Chase Credit Card Application Rules
Chase (Chase credit cards for military) is similar to other card issuers in that they don’t limit the number of cards you can have, but they do take into consideration your total line of credit and your number of hard inquires.
At most you’ll only be approved for one personal card and one business card every 90 days.
Chase also has their famous (or infamous) Chase 5/24 rule. This means they will not approve you for additional cards if you have opened more than 5 cards in the last 24 months. This applies to all of your credit cards from any bank, not only cards issued by Chase.
The one loophole is business credit cards (like from AMEX or Chase) do not count towards 5/24. Chase used to limit the 5/24 rule to only certain cards, but recent data points seem to insist this rule now applies to all Chase issued credit cards.
It is possible to receive a welcome bonus multiple times on each card, but you must wait 24-48 months between receiving the bonuses. Each card varies so review the terms before submitting your application.
There are some other unique rules for certain Chase cards. With regards to the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP military review) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR military review), you are not eligible to receive the bonus on one card if you currently have the other.
In addition, you must wait 48 months between bonuses to be eligible for a new bonus. In regards to the multiple Chase Southwest co-branded cards, you must wait 24 months between receiving bonuses for any cards in the Southwest family.
Bank of America
Bank of America does not limit the number of credit cards you may have, but they do consider the number of recent hard inquires on your credit report.
There is no set number of hard inquires which will result in automatically not being approved, but the more inquires you have will result in a greater likelihood of denial.
Additionally, they do limit the total amount of credit they will extend to each individual, so you may need to shift your lines of credit from one card to the next.
Bank of America also has what is known as the “BOA 2/3/4 rule.” This means they will not approve you for more than two cards in 30 days, three cards in 12 months, or four cards in 24 months. It is important to note this does not apply to business cards.
BOA also has the 7/12 rule. This is different in that it applies to all credit cards you have and not only your Bank of America cards. They will not approve you for an additional card if it’s going to result in you having more than seven cards opened in a 12 month period.
Additionally, you’ll need to have a Bank of America deposit bank account open at the time of application or you’ll automatically be denied for having too many recent inquiries.
You can receive the welcome bonus multiple times on each card, but you must wait 24 months after receiving the bonus to reapply for the card.
You’re also not eligible to receive a bonus within the same family of cards within 90 days. By the same family of cards I’m referring to receiving multiple welcome bonuses from a single rewards currency, such as receiving both the Alaskan Airlines Visa Credit Card bonus and the business version of the same card within 90 days.
Barclaycard is similar to Bank of America in that they don’t limit the number of cards you can have, but they do take into consideration your total line of credit and your number of recent hard inquires.
The only other rule is you must wait six months after cancelling a card before reapplying for the same card in order to be eligible for the welcome bonus again.
Capital One is unique in that they will only allow you to have two personal cards at any given time. There is no limit on the number of Capital One business cards.
Check out the best Capital One credit cards for military servicemembers and their spouses.
They also have the 1/6 rule, which simply means they will only approve you for one card every six months. This applies to both personal and business cards.
You can receive the welcome bonuses multiple times for each card, but you must wait one year in between receiving the bonuses.
Citi also does not limit your number of cards, but they do look at your total line of credit and number of hard inquiries. Check out the recently confirmed Citi military policy.
They will approve you for one personal card every eight days, and two personal cards within 65 days. For business cards, they will only approve you for one every 95 days.
It’s possible to receive welcome bonuses multiples times as long as you wait 24 months from the time you’ve received the prior bonus.
Citi’s other rule requires a 24 month period between receiving bonuses for cards in the same family, such as American Airlines cobranded cards and cards that earn Citi Thank You points, like the Citi Prestige card for military.
US Bank does not limit your number of cards, but again will consider recent inquiries and you overall extended line of credit.
Their only other rule applies to the US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card. In order to be approved for this card you must have a prior relationship with the bank, which can be as simple as a owning a free checking account.
Wells Fargo is similar in that they do not limit the total number of cards you can have, but they will look at the other normal parameters.
You’re only eligible to receive one welcome bonus every 16 months. However, personal and business cards are considered separate entities, so you can receive one welcome bonus for each in a 16 month period.
Final Thoughts on Credit Card Application Rules
Approval for a new rewards card will give you the inspiration to begin planning new trips so you can see the world. Spencer managed to fly to Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia in business class on just points.
Opening a new card will also make you begin to think of all the things you’ll be able to do with the money you’ve saved on airfare, hotels, and cashback. Conversely, getting denied will only frustrate you and delay your future travel plans. So it’s very important to know the credit card application rules.
One last piece of advice which has greatly helped me in the past is to call reconsideration lines following an application submission that does not receive an immediate approval.
In some cases, the representative has the power to approve or deny your application on the spot. So remember to be extremely courteous and as kind as possible when asking the representative if there is anything you can do, or any information you can provide, which will help them approve you for your desired card. Best of luck with your future applications!
FAQ for Credit Card Application Rules
The “Chase 5/24 rule” means you can only open a new credit card account with Chase Bank
The 5/24 rule refers to a Chase credit card application rule that states Chase will not approve you for an additional credit card if you have opened 5 credit or charge cards
You can have an unlimited number of American Express charge cards, like the AMEX Platinum card or AMEX Gold card. However, AMEX limits the number of AMEX credit cards you can have to 5. Examples of AMEX credit cards include AMEX Delta Reserve, AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire, and AMEX Bonvoy Brilliant.
Usually business credit cards do not count against your Chase 5/25 status, unless they report to your personal credit report. Chase business credit cards and AMEX apparently do not count against your Chase 5/24.
Because the American Express Platinum card is a AMEX charge card and not a credit card, you can have unlimited AMEX Platinum cards. Personally I have 6.
No, and actually having a lot of open credit cards can improve your credit card because you have more access to credit, therefore lowering your credit utilization. Paying your bills in full each month and never missing a payment are the most important things to keeping a high 800+ credit score.
There is no limit to how many credit cards you can have. The Guinness Book of World Records has at least 2 people with over 1400 credit cards. Personally, I have over 20 credit cards.