Applying for credit cards that earn points and perks for travel comes with all kinds of considerations. You'll want to protect your credit score, obviously … though that's a topic filled with misunderstandings and misinformation. You'll want to master the points and miles you'll be earning. And above all, you'll want to make sure you're being financially responsible – credit cards are serious business.
But before you apply, you'll also want to make sure you understand all the rules and restrictions that each bank has in place for new applicants. These rules vary from bank to bank and change constantly, and they can be the difference in getting swift approval or outright denied – no matter your credit score.
Whether you're considering a card from Chase, Citi, American Express, Capital One, or even a credit card issuer like Wells Fargo or U.S. Bank, we'll walk through all the credit card application rules in place that you'll want to know before hitting that apply button.
- American Express Credit Card Application Rules
- Chase Bank Credit Card Application Rules
- Capital One Credit Card Application Rules
- Citi Credit Card Application Rules
- Bank of America Credit Card Application Rules
- Barclays Credit Card Application Rules
- U.S. Bank Credit Card Application Rules
- Wells Fargo Credit Card Application Rules
- Discover Credit Card Application Rules
- Credit Card Application Rules: Bottom Line
American Express Credit Card Application Rules
If you have a high credit score, American Express is one of the easiest of the big banks to get approved for a credit card.
That said, there are a few rules specific to American Express that you'll want to be aware of before submitting an application.
One Welcome Bonus Per Lifetime Rule
If you're looking at a new travel credit card, odds are you're hoping to earn a big bonus. With American Express cards, you can earn these welcome offer bonuses once per “lifetime.” But that may not mean what you think.
For starters, it means you can get just about every American Express credit card once. But once you've had it, you won't be able to earn the welcome bonus on it again.
That rule applies even if you've had the card in the past, but never earned the welcome bonus on it. So if you previously held the *amex platinum card* but then downgraded it to the *amex gold card*, you would be ineligible to earn the welcome bonus on the Gold card.
But this rule comes with a big caveat: American Express' definition of “lifetime” isn't anywhere close to an actual lifetime. Many data points suggest that seven years after you've canceled an Amex card, you're once again eligible to open that card and earn the welcome bonus.
And finally, make sure to keep an eye out for targeted welcome offer bonuses that are not publicly available. Oftentimes, the fine print on these offers does not include the “once per lifetime” language.
A Limit of Five Credit Cards
On top of the “once per lifetime” rule, American Express also limits consumers to having no more than five American Express cards open at any given time. So if you already have five open cards, you would automatically be declined if you were to apply for another one. This includes both personal and small business Amex cards.
One important note: This five-card total doesn't include hybrid cards that don't have fixed spending limits – formerly known as charge cards. That means the following cards don't count towards that five-card limit:
- *amex platinum card*
- *biz platinum*
- *amex gold card*
- *biz gold*
- The American Express® Green Card
- The American Express® Business Green Card
Only Two Credit Cards Every 90 Days
Regardless of which cards you are applying for, you won't be approved for more than two American Express cards in a 90-day period. However, this restriction excludes hybrid cards without a fixed spending limit like *amex platinum card* and others mentioned above.
There shouldn't be any issues applying for two cards on the same day, though you may not get instant approval on the second one.
Delta Co-Branded Credit Card Family Rules
Since Amex has traditionally limited cardholders to earning a welcome offer bonus once per card, and they offer four separate Delta co-branded credit cards, you could pick up all four – at varying times – and earn a big pool of SkyMiles in the process. It's the reason we have always cautioned travelers to not upgrade their Delta credit card, as you could apply for a different version outright and still earn the big welcome offer bonus.
But as of September 2023, that's no longer the case as Amex has added terms that limit welcome offer eligibility based on which other Delta SkyMiles cards you've previously had. It's not a blanket one-size-fits-all restriction, though, and as of publication, the Delta American Express business credit cards don't appear to be impacted.
It's still possible to earn a bonus on multiple Delta credit cards, but you'll have to start at the bottom and work your way up in order to do it.
Under the new requirements, Amex is only allowing travelers to earn a welcome offer on a more expensive Delta card than the one they currently have, or have had.
Amex's New ‘Apply with Confidence' Feature
In November 2022, Amex officially rolled out its new feature dubbed the “Apply with Confidence” tool. Whether you're concerned your credit score isn't up to snuff or can't remember whether you've had a certain card before, this new tool can help reassure you before that fateful moment when you hit “submit.”
During the application process, select applicants can use the Apply with Confidence tool to find out if they are approved for a card without impacting their credit score. If you get the green light, apply, and get approved for the card, then your credit score may be affected.
At launch, this new application experience is currently available for individuals applying for a U.S. personal card via Thrifty Traveler, at AmericanExpress.com/us/credit-cards, or by calling American Express and is not available if you apply for a card after you log in to an existing card member account. That means if you're applying for an American Express business card, this tool won't be available.
The new American Express “Apply with Confidence” tool allows you to see if you'll be approved for a card before you actually submit your application for an Amex card. That allows consumers to fill out the card application as they normally would and then agree to the terms of the application.
Without a doubt, this new feature makes applying for American Express cards easier and provides more transparency than any other bank out there.
Use the Amex Welcome Offer Eligibility Pop-Up
One nice thing about Amex is that they have an easy-to-use tool to confirm whether you're eligible for a welcome offer for any card before you officially hit submit on any credit card applications.
This tool processes your information before American Express actually pulls your credit. It can help stop you from applying for a credit card if you're not eligible for the bonus, saving you the trouble of a pointless hard credit pull.
You’ll only get a pop-up if American Express deems you are not eligible to earn the welcome offer on the subject card. That means you can assume you're eligible to earn a welcome bonus if the application goes straight through to a final decision without a warning like the one below.
Chase Bank Credit Card Application Rules
Chase has some of the most restrictive policies of all the credit card issuing banks when it comes to getting approved for their credit cards.
That's a big part of the reason why we urge travelers to start with Chase credit cards if you are just getting started in the world of travel. Once you get started, Chase credit cards simply get more difficult to open thanks to something called the Chase 5/24 rule.
Here's everything you need to know before you apply for a Chase credit card.
The Chase 5/24 Rule
The Chase 5/24 rule is a hard-and-fast restriction rolled out years ago in order to limit card applicants from opening credit cards for the sole purpose of earning the bonus rewards.
Here's what it boils down to:
- If you have opened five or more credit cards in the past 24 months from any bank (not just Chase cards), you will not be approved for most Chase credit cards – regardless of your credit score or history with Chase bank.
- The rule does not count credit inquiries, but rather card products that you have applied and been approved for.
So if you have opened five or more new credit cards from any bank in the past 24 months, you won't be approved for Chase credit cards that are subject to the 5/24 rule. Nearly all of Chase's personal credit cards fall under this rule.
Again, Chase isn't just looking at your history with Chase cards to make this determination: Personal credit cards from any bank will add to your 5/24 count.
The rule is not officially published through any of Chase's platforms. Case in point: If you ask about it in a Chase branch, employees are likely not familiar with it.
Are Business Credit Cards Impacted by the Chase 5/24 Rule?
Business credit cards have an interesting relationship with the Chase 5/24 rule.
When it comes to Chase business credit cards specifically, you'll need to be underneath the 5/24 rule to get approved … but that approval will not add to your 5/24 count.
For example, let's say you want to apply for the *chase ink preferred*. If you've opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months, you'd almost certainly get denied. But let's say you've opened four credit cards over the last two years. You could get approved … and you'd remain at 4/24 under this rule.
Most business card approvals do not count towards your 5/24 total – regardless of the card issuing bank. That includes business cards from American Express, Chase, Citi, Bank of America, and more. The reason? Business credit card accounts typically don't show on your personal credit report.
24 and 48-Month Welcome Bonus Eligibility Rules
Unlike American Express, Chase doesn't have a one welcome bonus per lifetime rule.
Rather, welcome offer bonus eligibility is based on a 24 or 48-month cycle of when you last earned the bonus on that card. For example, if you recently opened the *chase sapphire preferred* and earned the bonus, you would not be eligible to earn the welcome offer bonus again on the Sapphire Preferred or the *chase sapphire reserve* for 48 months after you received that bonus.
Other cards like the *freedom unlimited*, the Chase Freedom Flex℠, any of the Chase co-branded credit cards like The World of Hyatt Credit Card, and even the suite of Chase Ink business credit cards run on a shorter 24-month cycle for bonuses. That means you won't be eligible to earn the bonus for 24 months after you earned the original bonus.
Once you fall outside that window, you can't have the card – or cards within the same card family – open at the time of your application.
Can You Have More Than One Chase Card In the Same Family?
Above and beyond the 24 and 48-month window discussed above, Chase will not allow you to open another credit card if you already have a card open in a specific card family. This rule specifically applies to Chase Sapphire cards, the suite of co-branded Southwest Airlines credit cards, and the suite of co-branded Marriott cards.
For example, if you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve and haven't earned the welcome bonus in over 48 months (four years), you still would not be eligible to open the Chase Sapphire Preferred until you close (or downgrade) your Sapphire Reserve to one of the Freedom cards. We generally recommend waiting a month before applying for a new card after you cancel or downgrade a Sapphire card, just to make sure Chase doesn't have any record of it.
The same is true of the Southwest Airlines and Marriott credit cards. While there are three different options with Southwest, Chase only allows you to hold one at a time, and you can't have earned the bonus on any of the three within the last 24 months to be eligible for a new card and welcome offer bonus.
No More Than Two Chase Cards Every 30 Days
Chase allows you to be approved for a maximum of two personal cards in a 30-day window. You'll only be able to get approved for one Chase business credit card in a 30-day period.
Capital One Credit Card Application Rules
With a big welcome bonus and great travel perks for an affordable annual fee, it's without a doubt the most exciting travel rewards credit card we've seen in a number of years, and with Capital One making some major improvements to its Venture Miles rewards program, the bank is on the radar of points & miles enthusiasts more than ever.
That's where the good news ends, as Capital One has some of the most mysterious credit card application rules and standards. The bank doesn't officially publish any rules, period … but enough data points and trends have emerged over the years to give us a bit of information that can help get you approved for a Capital One credit card. And some recent experiences with the new Venture X suggest it may be easier than many travelers expected.
Still, Capital One's credit card application rules seem inconsistent at best.
Have You Recently Been Approved for Another Capital One Card?
If you have applied and been approved for any other Capital One credit card within the past six months, it's likely that any new credit card application will not be approved. This includes both personal and business credit cards.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. But generally speaking, keeping your Capital One application and approval history clean for at least six months will give you the best chances of getting approved.
Capital One's sensitivity has also gone beyond just Capital One's credit card applications. Historically, recent credit inquiries seem to be a factor when deciding your approval fate. That includes inquiries from other banks.
Generally, that means it's best to limit any and all credit inquiries from all banks (not just Capital One) for at least a few months before you want to apply for a Capital One credit card.
Only Two Personal Credit Cards at a Time
Data points suggest that Capital One will only allow you to hold two personal credit cards at any given time.
That said, there are several data points of people having more than two Capital One personal credit cards. So this rule – like many – seems to be applied inconsistently.
You Can't Earn A Bonus on the Same Card Within 48 Months
Unlike other banks, Capital One previously had no written rules on welcome bonus eligibility, allowing both existing and previous cardmembers to apply for the same credit card again. That opened a little-known avenue to earn the bonus on the exact same card twice.
But a new disclosure on the application pages for personal Capital One credit cards that first appeared in August 2023 puts a stop to that practice.
“Existing or previous cardmembers are not eligible for this product if they have received a new cardmember bonus for this product in the past 48 months,” it reads.
Let's say you earned a big bonus on the *capital one venture card* within the last four years – whether you still have that card open or not. Some savvy travelers have been getting approved and earning yet another welcome bonus on that same credit card – even if they still have their previous Venture Card open. That's exactly what Capital One is attempting to crack down on with this new policy.
By the way it's written, Capital One handles this restriction on a card-by-card basis. But until four full years have passed since you last earned the bonus on the Venture Card, that specific card is off-limits.
Does Capital One Have a 5/24-Like Rule for Approvals?
Many data points over the years have also suggested that Capital One had a Chase 5/24-like rule of their own – though the exact number of cards remains somewhat of a mystery.
Here's what we can say: Being under Chase's 5/24 rule was generally a good idea if you were looking to get approved for a Capital One credit card. But again, it's not a sure thing.
Through the first year of Venture X applications, the 5/24 rule doesn't seem to be nearly as much of a factor as it had been before. We've heard from readers both below and well above the Chase 5/24 rule who received instant approval for the Venture X card.
It appears that as long as you meet the other requirements laid out above, Chase's 5/24 doesn't appear to be impacting Venture X approvals. That said, too many recent credit inquiries could harm your chances of approval.
Does Capital One Limit You Within Card a Card Family?
Already got a *capital one venture card*? Don't worry. Capital One said in an interview with Thrifty Traveler that current Venture cardholders will be eligible to apply outright for the new Venture X Card, and vice versa. There's no restriction on holding both cards at the same time, though you may not want to keep them both long-term, as there is a lot of overlap.
Credit Pulls From All Three Credit Bureaus
One unique thing about applying for a Capital One credit card is that the bank will pull your credit from all three of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Most other banks pull from only one or two bureaus at most.
This isn't necessarily a good or bad thing, and it shouldn't have much of an impact on your approval odds if you have a high credit score. Still, it's something to be aware of. If you have your credit report frozen at any or all of the credit bureaus, you'll need to remove the freeze from all three before applying.
Do Capital One Business Cards Count Towards Chase 5/24?
Most business cards won't add to your Chase 5/24 status. That means if you are at 3/24 and apply for a business card from Chase and Amex for example, you'll remain at 3/24.
The reason? Business credit card accounts typically don't show on your personal credit report. But that's not the case for most Capital One business credit cards.
One exception to this rule is the Capital One Spark Cash Plus card which for whatever reason, is not reported to credit bureaus.
Citi Credit Card Application Rules
While Citi has a number of credit card application rules to be aware of, they are far more straightforward than its competitors.
Here is what you need to know.
The Citi 8/65 Application Rule
You can only be approved for one Citi credit card in an eight-day period – and at most, two credit cards in a 65-day period.
Citi's 48-Month Rule
For the longest time, Citi operated under two different sets of rules for earning a welcome bonus – and it all depended on which type of card you were applying for. In April of 2023, Citi changed the wording in their terms to create consistency across all of their cards with a new account bonus.
For better or worse, the new rule states that you must wait 48 months between earning a welcome bonus and applying for the card again. Previously, this 48-month rule only applied to the Citi AAdvantage cards, but now it's applicable to the Citi ThankYou Points family of cards as well.
That means if you had the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® within the past 48 months, you wouldn't be eligible to apply and earn another bonus. But that shouldn't impact your ability to apply for the *citi aa exec card*, or even the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card.
And since American Airlines also has a co-branded credit card issued from Barclays called the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, it wouldn't impact your ability to get that card either. Since the card isn't issued from Citi, none of these Citi credit card application rules would apply.
Bank of America Credit Card Application Rules
When it comes to credit card application rules from Bank of America, there are three rules you will want to know. So if you are looking to grab the *alaska visa card* or any other Bank of America credit card, here is what you need to keep in mind.
The Bank of America 2/3/4 Rule
The Bank of America 2/3/4 rule states that you can only be approved for two Bank of America credit cards in a rolling two-month period. You can be approved for three Bank of America cards in a rolling 12-month period, and four cards in a rolling 24-month period.
This rule is specific to Bank of America credit cards (both business and personal), and applications from other banks will not be factored into this rule.
The Bank of America 3/12 & 7/12 Rule
Similar to Chase's 5/24 rule, Bank of America has something called the 3/12 & 7/12 rule. It works like this:
- If you have a bank account with Bank of America and have opened seven new cards (from any bank) in the past 12 months, your application for a new Bank of America card will not be approved.
- If you don't have a bank account with Bank of America and have opened three new cards (from any bank) in the past 12 months, your application for a Bank of America card will not be approved.
The Bank of America 24-Month Rule
Like both Chase and Citi, Bank of America allows you to earn the welcome offer bonus on the same card multiple times. They will, however, restrict how often you can earn it.
You are not eligible to open a Bank of America Card and earn a welcome bonus if you've earned the bonus on that card in the past 24 months. You also can't have the card currently open if you want to get approved.
Barclays Credit Card Application Rules
Barclays has a few application rules you'll want to be aware of before applying for their credit cards. But as is the case with Capital One, these rules seem to be inconsistent in practice according to data points.
Something unique about Barclays' credit card application rules is that data points suggest the bank may consider your spending on other Barclays cards – if you have them open – when they are deciding your approval fate. Not spending a lot on your existing Barclays card? That may impact your ability to get another one.
Here's what you need to know.
The Barclays 6/24 Rule
Similar to Chase's 5/24 rule, Barclays also has a rule in place to limit approvals from people who have recently been approved for a lot of new credit cards.
The bank's 6/24 rule applies if you have more than six new credit card accounts on your credit report in the last 24 months. In the past, that rule was believed to have been as high as eight new accounts.
But in practice? Data points suggest that you can still get approved for Barclays cards if you are above and beyond their 6/24 rule. At best, the rule seems inconsistent. It seems likely that Barclays may consider your existing banking relationship when applying this rule.
The Barclays 24-Month Rule
Like other card issuers on this list, Barclays allows you to earn a welcome bonus multiple times … you'll just need to wait 24 months to do so.
Critically, the 24-month rule with Barclays states that you need to wait 24 months from when you last closed the card to be eligible to earn a welcome bonus again. It isn't enough to simply wait 24 months to earn a bonus again: You must have closed that card at least 24 months prior.
And make sure you read the terms and conditions of the specific card product you are applying for. Some Barclays cards state that you won't be eligible to earn a welcome offer bonus if you have or previously had an account in that program.
Again, inconsistency is the theme with Barclays.
U.S. Bank Credit Card Application Rules
U.S. bank has some of the most simple and straightforward credit card application rules you'll find. Here's what you need to know.
U.S. Bank Welcome Offer Bonus Eligibility
U.S. bank has no hard limits or required waiting periods on their credit cards. That means, in theory, you can receive a welcome bonus on a U.S. Bank credit card multiple times – though you can't have the specific card product open at the time of application.
U.S. Bank Application Rules for Altitude Reserve
The U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card is the only U.S. Bank credit card with an application rule on paper.
In order to get approved for the Altitude Reserve Card, you'll need to have an existing banking relationship with U.S. Bank. That can be an existing bank account, credit card, mortgage, or any other banking product.
Wells Fargo Credit Card Application Rules
Wells Fargo doesn't limit the number of credit cards you can hold with them at any given time. Rather, they limit how much credit, in dollar figures, they will extend to you based on your individual credit profile. That amount will be different for every person.
The bank also states on its card applications: “You may not qualify for an additional Wells Fargo credit card if you have opened a Wells Fargo credit card in the last six months.”
However, data points suggest that this isn't a concrete rule. Rather, the bank will consider your relationship with the bank to determine whether or not to approve you for a new card. That means having an existing Wells Fargo account could help you bypass this rule.
The Wells Fargo 16-Month Rule
Wells Fargo will allow you to earn a bonus on the same card product multiple times. However, you must wait 16 months between receiving a welcome offer bonus on any two Wells Fargo credit cards.
Personal and business credit cards are treated separately so it is possible to get approved for one of each in the same 16-month window.
Discover Credit Card Application Rules
Last but not least is Discover, which has a few rules you'll need to be aware of before applying for their credit cards.
First and foremost, Discover only allows you to have a maximum of two credit cards issued by Discover at one time. Further, your first account needs to be open for at least one year before a second credit card account can be opened.
Credit Card Application Rules: Bottom Line
Clearly, there is a lot to be aware of if you are applying for a credit card with any of the card-issuing banks. But understanding which banks have what rules can be the single most important factor in whether you get approved or shot down.