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10 Reasons You Can Be Denied for a Credit Card and What You Can Do About It

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No one likes rejection — least of all when it keeps you from earning a valuable sign-up bonus from a travel rewards card. While there are several circumstances in which you may be denied for a credit card application, there are often ways to appeal that decision, as TPG Contributor Akash Gupta explains below.

“After thoughtful consideration, we are unable to approve your application at this time.”

Most award travel buffs have seen these dreaded words at some point after clicking “submit” on a credit card application. When it comes to the world of credit cards, simply having a high credit score isn’t always enough to guarantee approval — you could still be denied for a variety of reasons.

1. High Credit Utilization Rate

Some reports state that FICO usually considers a credit card account as maxed out when it reaches the 70%-75% utilization range, but opinions vary. When a person utilizes most or all of their available credit line, it can imply that they’re living on credit and are opening a new account to further that debt.

If you call in for reconsideration after being denied due to high existing debt, creditors may suggest that you first pay down the balances on other accounts to about 30% or less as a proof of having disposable income, before being approved for the new card.

 2. Thin Credit Files

This is a common reason for rejection when you’ve just received an SSN or are very new to credit — as is the case with many international students and new jobholders. Since there isn’t any track record of how responsibly you can manage allotted credit, lenders will decline you for premium cards — and often for any card.

You’re more likely to get approved if you build up a history over a few months, by being an authorized user on someone else’s account or even getting a secured credit card. Alternatively, you can also call the reconsideration line and offer to submit proof of income, such as pay stubs or tax returns, which could help improve your odds of approval.

 3. Too Many Recent Hard Inquiries

Spread out your applications so your credit report isn't hit with too many hard inquiries.
Spread out your applications so your credit report isn’t hit with too many hard inquiries.

Every time you apply for credit and authorize a lender to check your credit report, it shows up as an inquiry on the report. If there are too many inquiries within a short period of time, it can raise a red flag that you’re desperate to borrow due to lack of financial security.

There’s no real criteria of what that “too many” is, but it’s safe to say that 10-15 hard inquiries over two years is much safer than 10-15 inquiries within three to six months. Therefore, it’s advisable to time applications in batches of 3-5 per six months or more longer. You should also familiarize with each bank’s application policies — see below for more details.

4. Bank-Specific Application Restrictions

Many credit card issuers have enforced certain application restrictions to deter people who apply for numerous products simultaneously with the purpose of earning sign-up bonuses. Some may also limit the total number of cards you can have with them altogether.

Before applying for a card, check to see if the issuing bank has any such policies that could result in a denial, or a even disqualification from the bonus. For example, unlike Citi’s 18-month open/close rule for sign-up bonuses and Amex’s one bonus per card per lifetime policy, Chase’s 5/24 rule means you won’t even be approved for a new card in the first place if you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the past 24 months.

 5. Too Much Credit with the Same Bank

Banks can limit the total credit line they extend to you. For instance, if Chase determines that you should have a total credit line of $50,000 and you already have three cards that take up that entire amount, you’d most likely be denied for a fourth card.

This isn’t a restriction on the number of cards, but rather on the combined credit line. In such cases, you may be able to get the application approved by calling reconsideration and offering to move around credit lines to accommodate the new card.

 6. Identity or Other Details Cannot Be Verified

This is more of a fraud-prevention mechanism than a reflection on your personal eligibility for a card. Still, I know too many people who perceived such a refusal as set in stone. If your details cannot be verified, simply call the bank and ask what type of proof they’ll accept to successfully process the application. If you hold checking and/or savings accounts with that bank, you can also request that your details from these accounts be used as an affirmation of your identity.

7. Recent Negative Items on Credit Reports

Payment history and amounts owed are the biggest factors in determining your FICO score.
Payment history and amounts owed are the biggest factors in determining your FICO score.

If you have missed payments, you’ve sullied the most important factor on your credit report: payment history. Other negative notations include unpaid tax liens and bankruptcies. The more recent these marks, the less likely a lender is to approve your application. The positive side is that these stains are diluted with the passage of time, so their impact steadily lessens until they completely fall off the reports seven years later.

8. Income Stated on Application is Too Low

Issuers have minimum disposable income limits as a baseline, below which they may not grant credit. These are not made public and usually apply to the more rewarding cards. Willingly and knowingly reporting inaccurate data on a credit application is considered fraud, so even though your lender may not verify it, it’s better to research and apply for cards with lower income requirements than to misstate financial credentials on an application.

9. You’re Too Young to Apply

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age to apply for their own cards. But there’s no such age restriction for being added as an authorized user on someone else’s account, which helps build credit until you’re old enough to apply on your own.

10. Errors on Application

Last but not least, unintentional errors on the application can also lead to denials. If, despite double-checking all details prior to submission, you still end up making an error, try calling the issuer and explaining your mistake, along with offering to submit proof of the accurate data.

Bottom Line

Optimize your chances of approval by knowing issuers’ policies and how your credit score works. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you’re turned down for a credit card due to any of these reasons, don’t take no for an answer so easily. Provided you’re honest and willing to move around credit lines or provide the issuer with additional information, it’s often possible to convert a rejection into an approval without too much effort.

For more information, see the following posts:

Have you ever successfully turned a credit card rejection into an approval? Share your experience in the comments below!

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