It can be tempting to apply for multiple credit cards in a short timeframe. You can use them to rack up the welcome offers for a lavish vacation. Or they can be used to receive some nice statement credits when making large purchases.
While the short-term rewards can be the deciding factor when comparing two different credit cards, applying for too many credit cards at once can have consequences. Does applying for a credit card hurt your credit? While there is no rule that states a person must wait a specified amount of time before applying for the next credit card, there are some general guidelines to follow.
Does Applying For A Credit Card Hurt Your Credit?
Let’s take a further look at how to avoid hurting your credit score and what you should do instead.
It’s All About The Credit Score
When applying for any type of loan or credit card (financial institutions consider it a form of revolving debt), they will look at your credit score. A credit score is a number that ranges from 350 to 850 (there are numerous variations in this scoring range). The higher the score, the more likely you are to repay your balance on time. There are several factors of short and long-term credit history that determine your credit score. Credit cards impact most, if not all, of those factors in one way or another.
Here is how your credit score is impacted by a credit card application. Ten percent of your credit score is comprised of “Hard Inquiries.” These occur anytime you give permission for a financial institution to run a credit check on you. It might be applying for a credit card, home loan, switching cell phone carriers, or applying for a new job.
Whether you get approved or denied, these inquiries cannot be erased from your report. If you haven’t checked your credit report in the last two years and you have had several life events occur, you might be surprised how many might have recorded on your report. Hard inquiries tell lenders if you have recently tried applying for similar financing and might have been denied.
Inquiries usually stay on your report for two years before dropping off. Normally, you do not want more than 5 inquiries on your report at any time, but three is an ideal number to aim for.
Other Considerations Regarding Credit Score
Two other factors are Types of Credit (10%) and Length of Credit History (15%). People with excellent credit scores normally have credit accounts that are at least 4 years old. A credit card issuer uses these two factors to find out how many credit cards and loans you currently have and how long you have had them for.
If you were recently approved for 2 or 3 new credit cards within the last 18 months, your length of credit history is going to be rather young. Even if you have never missed a payment and maintain a low debt-to-credit utilization ratio, your score will most likely be lower than when you applied for your first credit card. You may still be approved for new credit cards, but the card issuer might authorize a smaller credit limit to offset the risk of having so many new types of credit.
Every time you apply for a new credit card or loan, your credit score will drop a few points. If you have a good or excellent score (720 or above) you can afford a few dings in your score and still qualify for the best rates. If your score is near 700 points or lower, each application will be a relatively harder hit.
Typically a score in the mid to upper 600s is still considered a “prime” score but these users are either recovering from credit history blemishes or have a minimal credit history. If you fall in this range, you should primarily concentrate on having one or two cards that allow you to gradually increase your credit score.
How Often To Apply
Let’s talk about the temptation of credit card welcome offers. You might be contemplating churning credit cards for one of two reasons: balance transfers or travel rewards. There are more credit cards available than any one person can count on both their hands and feet. Just ask anybody who has done travel hacking for any period of time.
Once again, the guideline comes down to your credit score. The general rule of thumb for most people is to wait for six months between credit card applications. This allows you enough time to establish a credit history with your new card with on-time payments and the average monthly balance (debt-to-credit ratio). The six-month period also provides an opportunity for your credit score to recover from the new inquiry.
When You Should Apply Depending On Your Credit Score
If you have an excellent credit score (800+), you will probably only have to wait three months before applying again.
As was mentioned earlier, these are “rule of thumb” guidelines. You will likely be able to apply for two credit cards simultaneously. You may get approved for both of them with a high credit score of 750 or above.
If you were recently approved for a credit card and are getting pre-approval offers in the mail for other cards, your score is high enough to receive another card. Should it be an offer that you like, apply for it. If not, wait the six months before applying for the credit card you do want.
There are certain times you will not want to apply for a new credit card. The most obvious time might be right before you are planning to buy a home and need to apply for a mortgage or during the application process. Lenders and underwriters do not like surprises and a new application may force them to rewrite some of the paperwork due to adjustments in your credit report.
The same can be said when applying for a car loan or any other type of loan for that matter. A new type of credit is perceived as an increased risk of default due to the lack of payment history. Lenders are looking to make secure investments with their money.
What If My Credit Card Application Is Denied?
Sometimes applying for several credit cards in a short time frame will cause an application to be declined. What you shouldn’t do is apply for another credit card. It will count as another inquiry on your credit report for the next two years. Instead, call the card issuer that denied your application and find out the reason why your application was rejected.
You chose to apply for this particular credit card for a reason, so exhaust all options before moving on. If you have another credit card with the same issuer, you might be able to reduce your credit limit on your existing card to qualify for the new one. Sometimes it just takes a phone call to resolve an issue.
Another possible reason your application was denied could have been due to a low credit score. If that is the case, make sure you pay all your bills on-time. Pay them in full for several months and do not “max out” any account.
Ideally, keep your debt-to-credit utilization ratio below 20% for every credit card you own. To help determine when your score is high enough to apply for a new credit card, you can use a credit monitoring service that might provide you with a free credit score.
Does Applying For A Credit Card Hurt Your Credit: Final Thoughts
So, does applying for a credit card hurt your credit? It can. Knowing your credit score and being aware of your financial responsibilities can help. If you can manage your finances, you can bring up your credit score. Then you won’t have to worry about applying for a credit card.