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What To Do If You’re Declined for a Credit Card

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No one likes getting denied for a credit card application, but as TPG Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr explains, not all hope is lost if you find yourself in this situation. Read on for a variety of tips for appealing the decision and improving your likelihood of getting approved.

Even with the most detailed application preparation, you can still run into situations where you aren’t approved for a credit card. The good news is that an initial denial doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Today, I’ll discuss you a few actions you can take if you aren’t approved, and how to prepare yourself for future approval success.

Credit card sign-up bonuses are one of the most lucrative avenues for boosting your loyalty account balances. With that said, you should never nonchalantly open credit cards without first understanding the credit score equation and all the ramifications of damaging your credit if you irresponsibly use your cards.

A variety of factors determine your FICO score, the most widely used credit score.
A variety of factors determine your FICO number, the most widely used credit score.

Let’s say you’re confident you’ll be approved and you submit your application. Things go wrong when either a) you get an instant denial, or b) you get a “pending decision” message only to be denied a few days later. Let’s look at a few options you can take.

1. Call the Reconsideration Line

Reconsideration lines are your chance to both humanize and defend your credit card application. They’re staffed by rational representatives who will review your application and find out why it was flagged for further review or tell you why it was declined. Oftentimes, a delay or denial is the result of needing further ID verification or other minor hiccups.

Present the details of your case for approval, and have all the information and facts at your fingertips that justify why you should be approved for the card you want. The person on the other end of the line will listen, and he or she is in a position to make things happen. Treat them with respect, and chances are they’ll be on your side and may even approve your application.

2. Check Your Application

Failing to catch simple mistakes on your application can sink you hopes of free flights and hotels. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Failing to catch simple mistakes on your application can sink your hopes of free flights and hotels. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Even if you double- or triple-check your credit card applications, mistakes can happen. If you didn’t save a screenshot of your application — which is always advisable to do — have the agent at the reconsideration line go over all your information again line by line to ensure there were no typos. It can be a huge relief when you find this is the reason you almost missed out on tens of thousands of airline miles or hotel points.

3. Ask to Shift Credit

Lenders are wary of overextending credit, and this could very well be a reason an individual bank denies you for multiple credit card products. If you aren’t having success with getting approved for a card, a great strategy to use on the reconsideration line is to offer to shift credit from an existing card to the new account. This way, the bank avoids extending you additional credit, and you still get the sign-up bonus you’re after.

For example, if I were talking to Chase trying to open a United MileagePlus Explorer Card and already had a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, I’d say something like, “I’m happy to take $8,000 from my Sapphire Preferred credit line in order to open a United card. I really like the ability to combine the Ultimate Rewards I earn from my Sapphire Card with the United miles I’ll earn on the MileagePlus Explorer card.” I have yet to be denied when taking this strategy.

4. Offer to Accept a Lower Version of the Card

If you aren't accepted for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, try asking for the lower-end version.
If you aren’t accepted for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, try asking for the lower-end version.

Many credit cards come in a variety of versions with the specific purpose of offering an option to customers with lower credit scores. If you’re denied for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, you may be automatically approved for the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus Card. (Or you could call in and ask to be approved for this card.)

While these lower versions of cards won’t have the same sign-up bonuses or ancillary benefits, they still provide an avenue for earning loyalty points or miles. If you use the card and pay your balance in full each month, you’ll boost your credit and improve your chances of approval when you next apply for a credit card.

5. Check Your Credit Report

If your facing denials, taking the time and effort to improve your credit score is the only foolproof method to guarantee approvals in the future.
If you’re facing denials, taking the time and effort to improve your credit score is the only foolproof method to guarantee success in the future.

It’s not uncommon for people to find an error on their credit report. For this reason and many others, it’s imperative that you review your credit report on an annual basis — at a minimum — and ensure there are no erroneous accounts or negative remarks. If errors exist and go uncorrected, they can damn you from the start of your pursuit of points and miles.

Prepare for Future Success

If the above strategies fail to secure you a credit card application approval, it’s important to take the lessons you’ve learned and apply them to your credit practices in order to be approved the next time. Wait at least 90 days to apply again so previous inquiries on your credit report fall off. Pay all your bills on time — you can even set up automatic payments if you think you might forget or fall behind — and pay down current card balances to lower your credit utilization ratio. And when you’re ready to apply again, make sure you pick the right travel rewards card for you based on your credit score.

Just because you receive an initial denial from the credit card company doesn’t mean you can’t eventually be approved. Taking one or more of the above routes will hopefully have the bank change its mind or give yourself the chance to correct an error on your application or credit report. At the very least, these tips should put you in a better position for approval the next time around.

What have you done when you’ve been denied for a new card?

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