Each Bank Has Different Rules For Credit Applications — Here’s What You Need To Know

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If you’ve applied for more than a few credit cards in your day, chances are that you’ve noticed different approval patterns with different card issuers. There are the well known rules from each of the card issuers, and then there are general patterns I’ve noticed over the years when applying for cards with American Express, Chase, and Citi.

I’ve written about the fairly common rules with American Express, Chase, and Citi, but in this post I figured I’d address those unwritten patterns I’ve noticed when applying for cards with these issuers.

Before I get into that, let me emphasize that the below advice is intended for people with very good to excellent credit. In other words, if you have negative marks on your report, etc., you may have issues with getting approved with any of the banks.

American Express

Generally speaking, American Express has the following rules when it comes to being approved for cards:

Anecdotally I find that Amex cards are by far the easiest to be approved for of the three major issuers, for those with excellent credit. Approvals are almost always instant, and I don’t think I’ve ever been denied for an Amex card when following the above rules, which is the only issuer where that’s the case.

If you’re someone who is new to credit cards, I recommend making an Amex card one of the first cards you apply for, given that it’s generally an easy approval and will help build your credit. A card with which to start might be something like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express.

Chase

Generally speaking, Chase has the following rules when it comes to being approved for cards:

  • Some cards are subjected to the 5/24 rule, meaning you won’t be approved for the card if you’ve opened more than five new card accounts in the past 24 months; some cards, like the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card, aren’t subjected to this rule
  • Some report not being able to apply for more than two cards in a 30 day period, while others suggest you can be approved for at most one personal and one business card in a 90 day period
  • While the exact rules vary by card, for most products you can’t earn the sign-up bonus if you’re an existing cardmember and have received a sign-up bonus on the card in the past 24 months

Anecdotally, I find that Chase can be one of the tougher issuers to get approved with at first. I remember when I first turned 18 and got rejected for a Chase card. It took a while before I finally got approved for a Chase card, but once I got approved for the first one, I found it was pretty easy to get approved for cards subsequently.

The biggest limitation with Chase is often the total amount of credit they’re willing to extend you, so if you have quite a few Chase cards, they’ll sometimes ask you to switch around some credit lines.

Applying for Chase cards is a delicate balance, given the great cards they have. On one hand, your chances of approval are much better if you have a longstanding credit history, but at the same time you want to be sure you can be approved for cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card before becoming ineligible due to the 5/24 rule.

For someone who is fairly new to cards and doesn’t have a long credit history, I generally recommend getting one or two Amex cards, holding onto them for a while to establish a good payment history, low credit utilization, etc., and then applying for some of the best Chase cards.

Citi

Generally speaking, Citi has the following rules when it comes to being approved for cards:

  • You can only apply for one Citi card every eight days
  • You can apply for no more than two Citi cards every 65 days
  • While the exact rules vary by card, generally you’re not eligible for the bonus on a card if you’ve opened or closed a card in the same “family” in the past 24 months

Anecdotally, I find Citi approvals to be really inconsistent. For me this is the quirkiest of the three issuers. The cards aren’t super easy to be approved for at first, so in general I recommend waiting the longest with Citi card applications.

Some have no issues being approved early on in their “credit career,” while others do. What makes Citi quirky is that sometimes they deny existing cardmembers, and there’s not much that can be done (unlike with Chase, in my experience).

To give an example, Ford had no issues being approved for the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card a while back, and still has those cards. However, he recently applied for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, and was instantly denied. They said his credit history wasn’t long enough and he has too many recent applications, which is unusual. He has had credit cards for well over five years, and has had seven card applications in the past 24 months, which isn’t that many.

Bottom line

While there are commonly known application policies with each of the major issuers, there are even more unwritten rules in terms of how easy it is to be approved for a card from a specific issuer, etc. Of course everyone’s exact experiences are going to vary, though hopefully the above is an overall fair representation of how tough it is to be approved for cards with each of the three major issuers. To recap:

  • Amex cards are generally the easiest to be approved for, including both business and personal cards, even for those without a super long credit history
  • Chase cards can be tough to get approved for at first, though also the most worthwhile, since they won’t approve you for many of their cards if you’ve opened more than five new card accounts in the past 24 months; the good news is that once you’ve been approved for your first Chase card, I find approvals to be a bit easier
  • Citi can be quirky, and for some getting approved for their cards is easy, while for others it can be tough, even if you’ve had several of their products before

How does this compare to your experience with the three major issuers?

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Comments

  1. Instant approvals for both 2 Amex cards and 1 Citi card (I’d never previously done business with Citi before). Chase initially gave me the “please call to review your application” message when I applied for the Ink Business Plus. I initially thought it was because I had more credit than they were willing to give me on my existing 2 Chase cards, though when I called the next morning, the rep said it had already been approved. Very strange – no idea what they were looking for.

  2. > You can have at most five credit cards and four charge cards at any given point

    I believe there is no limit on the number of charge cards held, I currently hold 5. Credit cards is 5, but sometimes the 5th requires a call to recon.

  3. @Lucky: re: under AMEX cards: “You can have at most five credit cards and four charge cards at any given point”. Do you mean 5 AMEX cards max, or 5 any type of credit cards? Thanks.

  4. @Daniel B.

    Not @Lucky, but to answer your question: Amex’s restrictions are for Amex-issued cards only (unlike Chase where 5/24 is for all cards that report to your personal credit report regardless of issuer).

  5. @ Ram — That includes personal and business credit cards (and excludes charge cards).

  6. Interested in restrictions on Bank of America as well as capital one: If I have applied for another credit card with another issuer within a month or two of the application, does that mean I will be declined?

  7. For the 5 Amex cards (not charge), does being an authorized user on someone else’s Amex (not charge) account count towards the limit of 5 Amex cards? I currently sit at 5 cards counting the authorized user. Would be an interesting data point.

  8. Last May I got Amex business plat and then in end of aug I got chase reserve, then pretty soon after that in nov I believe, I got chase ink plus because it was going to go away. Since then, I’ve also gotten citi prestige and Amex business blue. I normally don’t open that many cc in such a short period of time but have been figuring this hobby out since last May from reading you @lucky and the points guy among few others. 🙂

  9. Thanks for the 90 day rule info on AmEx. That explains why I was denied on my 3rd AmEx card. They said I had reached the max number of cards in the category or something like that.

  10. My first credit card was a Citi card which I applied for when I was in college that came with a $500 initial credit limit. I used this card as a start to build my credit history. I then received my AmEx charge card (initially Green then upgraded to Gold and then Platinum) and Chase Card pre-approved in the mail. I also received another Citi card pre-approved via junk mail. Eventually, I cancelled my very first Citi card as it didn’t offer much travel rewards compared to my other cards.

  11. My experience as an expat, AmEx for non-US citizen that do not pay taxes in US and does not own an AmEx card issued by AmEx bank outside of the US has zero chance of getting an AmEx. Which in my opinion a very poor policy since an non-US AmEx card using the network is not sufficient proof that you have the funds to support.
    Luckily there are other more sensible banks in the US to help people in my situation to get a credit card to start building some credit history.
    So for me AmEx is ranked the lowest for people in my situation.

  12. @lucky
    What business do you have that uses business cards? Also, is it good to use a card with points, the Chase Freedom Unlimited, to pay large bills, i.e School Tuition? Finally, I want to here your thoughts on the Hilton Amex Surpass Card, it sounds like the best card ever, with at least 3X points on every purchase.

  13. “If you’re someone who is new to credit cards, I recommend making an Amex card one of the first cards you apply for, given that it’s generally an easy approval and will help build your credit.”.

    I completely agree with this. When I landed in the states about 14 months ago, Delta Amex was my first credit card with credit line of 5K, then I went on getting SPG ,Hilton Honors , Hilton Honors Surpass and finally BBP card. The total credit line from Amex is around 15K

    During this period, whenever I tried to apply for Chase cards, be it Southwest or IHG , i was always denied for not too long credit history. I was able to get Discover IT and Capital One silver one but Credit Line is just 500 on each of them.

    I would like to really appreciate Amex here for providing credit cards not just solely on credit age, but could be on the earnings.

  14. Barclays is no more than one Barclays card in 6 months, maybe only one per year, depending on how they feel about your credit history.

    US Bank is unlikely to approve you if you have many recent applications with any banks. More than one or two in the last 6 months can be problematic. And preferably no apps in the last couple of months if you want a good chance of approval.

  15. As for Citi cards because I was preapproved, I got two Citi credit cards within a week of each other without any issues. They were both instant approvals. I guess it really depends.

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