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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.
Generally speaking, American Express has the following rules when it comes to being approved for cards:
- You can have at most five credit cards and four charge cards at any given point
- You can’t be approved for more than two Amex credit cards in a 90 day period (this excludes charge cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, etc.)
- Sign-up bonuses on each individual card are once in a lifetime
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.
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.
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.
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?