The ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions

May 20, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information

If you’re relatively new to the points and miles world, you might be a bit gun-shy when it comes to applying for new credit cards. Most of my friends and family members find it hard to believe that I currently have 17 active travel rewards credit cards in my wallet and pay over $1,000 per year in annual fees.

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Just about every week I hear something along the lines of, “Aren’t you afraid that you’ll wreck your credit score?” While it’s true that card applications will temporarily lower your score as a result of the new hard inquiries on your profile, there are many other things that go into calculating that credit score number.

Still, you want to make sure that any applications you make have a high probability of being approved. After all, if an application is denied, you’re taking a hard inquiry on your credit report (and the resulting temporary drop in your score) without any upside.

Related reading: How to recession-proof your credit score

Many top issuers have added additional restrictions over the last few years that make it harder to get approved for a new card and/or earn a welcome bonus, so it’s important to know which bank has what rules before you apply. While you can never guarantee that your application will be approved, you really want to avoid wasting an application when you have absolutely no chance at success.

Related reading: How bad is it to get denied for a credit card?

With that in mind, today I’ll take you through the restrictions for all of the major issuers on the market today: American Express, Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Barclaycard, Capital One and Wells Fargo. For this analysis, I’ll look at three main factors to consider for each individual issuer as you plan your application strategy:

  • Number of cards
  • Number and timing of applications
  • Welcome bonuses

One disclaimer before diving in: the majority of these restrictions aren’t considered hard-and-fast rules applicable to every single scenario. I’ve heard stories of exceptions to just about every one of them. You could completely ignore a restriction and still get approved/earn a welcome bonus, or you could follow every recommendation perfectly, yet still get denied for a card. As the saying goes, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Related reading: How to check your credit score for absolutely free

In This Post

American Express

(Photo by The Diamond Brothers)
American Express has a slew of valuable cards but also imposes some strict application requirements. (Photo by The Diamond Brothers)

Number of cards

One of the first steps banks take during an economic downturn is to tighten their lending and approval standards so they can minimize risk. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to inflict damage on nearly every corner of the U.S. economy, Amex has taken a decisive step in this direction by implementing a new limit on the total number of credit cards each individual can have. While this doesn’t affect existing applicants with more cards in their wallet, now you can only be approved for four personal or business credit cards, and up to 10 charge cards. Previously, the limit was five credit cards per person and no limit on charge cards.

Related reading: How many credit cards should I have?

In the past I’d read isolated reports of readers having more than five American Express credit cards at any one time, especially after the Hilton conversion from Citi to Amex. However, that appears to be much more the exception than the norm. With the recent policy change, if you currently have four Amex credit cards I wouldn’t encourage you to apply for another. In fact, the last time I applied for an Amex card (a Delta Amex card), I was initially denied. I ended up having to cancel my Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express and call back in to get a representative to override the automatic rejection that occurred because I had five Amex credit cards at the time of my application.

The information for the Amex EveryDay Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

In case you’re wondering about the difference between credit and charge cards, it’s relatively simple: Charge cards don’t have a fixed spending limit, but must be paid in full every month, while credit cards have a fixed credit limit but also allow you to carry a balance from month to month. That being said, I strongly discourage you from ever carrying a balance — it actually tops TPG’s 10 commandments for travel rewards credit cards. Carrying a balance and accruing interest will more than negate any points or miles you earn on the card, and will also have a negative impact on your credit score.

Number and timing of applications

When it comes to American Express’ rules for how many applications you can have and how frequently you can submit them, again, there aren’t any published, hard-and-fast requirements. However, I did find a number of data points that may help you decide how to apply:

  • You can apply for two cards in a single day — one credit and one charge card, or two charge cards. However, many reports indicate that at least one application will likely be put on hold as a fraud prevention mechanism, especially if you’re applying for two charge cards (though some have been instantly approved for a credit and charge card on the same day). In addition, there’s no guarantee that those applications will be combined into a single hard inquiry on your credit report, though it does happen.
  • You may be able to get approved for more than two cards in a 90-day period. However, most of these reports were a combination of credit and charge cards, so the general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t apply for three or more Amex credit cards within three months.

Welcome offers

(Photo by The Points Guy)
If you want to earn welcome bonuses on the Hilton Amex cards (for example), it’s critical to make sure you’re eligible. (Photo by The Points Guy)

Long ago, American Express would allow you to earn welcome bonuses on the exact same card multiple times. However, this hasn’t been the case since 2014, when the issuer began restricting customers to one bonus per card per lifetime, no matter how long it’s been since you applied.

For example, here’s the specific language from the offer terms page for The Platinum Card® from American Express:

“Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”

The sentence is crystal clear: if you currently have (or have had) this particular card, you are not eligible to earn the welcome bonus (currently 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership). There’s similar language on the application pages across Amex’s entire portfolio of cards, including the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card and the The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express. It even extends to previous versions of cards in certain instances, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card:

“Welcome Offer not available to applicants who have or have had the Hilton Honors Surpass® Card or the Hilton Honors Amex Ascend Card.”

Even though the Hilton Ascend card is no longer available, you’ll likely be ineligible for the welcome bonus on the Surpass card if you held the Ascend in the past. This is another point that bears repeating: you lose eligibility for future Amex welcome bonuses by holding a credit card, not by earning the bonus on it. This is why you should always think twice about upgrading or downgrading an Amex card, especially if there’s no bonus attached.

When these restrictions were initially launched, they didn’t apply to small business cards, but you’ll now find the exact same verbiage on those application pages. However, note that the personal and business versions of the same card are treated as separate, so you should be eligible to earn the welcome bonus on each one once during your life.

For example, let’s say that you’re a current holder of the Amex Platinum (the personal version). You’ve received some great value out of it but now want to get The Business Platinum Card® from American Express for your small business. Even though these are both Platinum cards, you’re eligible to earn the welcome bonus on each of them once in your lifetime.

What if you can’t remember whether you’ve had a specific card before? Fortunately, American Express just launched a new tool that allows you to double check your eligibility for a welcome bonus. This check actually takes place during the application process but before you officially submit your application, and allows you to withdraw the application if you’re not eligible for the bonus before Amex performs a hard inquiry on your credit report. While most readers probably can recall their Amex card history, it’s nice to have an insurance policy to make sure you’re eligible before incurring a hard inquiry.

This eligibility tool also invokes the second phrase of legalese that’s been added to most Amex credit card applications:

“American Express may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”

Even if you’ve never held a specific Amex credit card before, Amex’s proprietary anti-fraud algorithm might determine that you’re not eligible to earn a bonus on it. We don’t know exactly what behaviors this system flags, but things like closing a credit card as soon as you earn the welcome bonus (or even closing it exactly one year after you opened it) don’t look good.

This is why, even though I never use the card in my day-to-day life, I’m considering paying the annual fee of $550 (see rates and fees) on my Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card next year rather than closing it at the one-year mark. $550  is a lot of money to flush down the drain, but it’s a small price to pay (in my opinion) to stay in Amex’s good graces.

Given this restriction, you’ll want to time your applications very well to make sure you’re getting the highest possible welcome bonus. And don’t forget to check the CardMatch tool to identify if you qualify for a possible 100,000-point targeted offer on the personal version of the Amex Platinum or the American Express® Gold Card.

Related reading: Choosing the best American Express credit card for you

Chase

Number of Cards

From my personal experience and research online, it appears that Chase doesn’t formally limit the number of credit cards you have. I currently have seven Chase-issued cards:

The information for the Ink Business Cash, Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Other TPG staffers have even more. For example, Editor-at-Large Zach Honig has had as many as 11. As a result, it’s relatively safe to assume that Chase doesn’t put a hard ceiling on the number of cards you can have.

Related reading: Yes, I have 19 credit cards; here’s why

However, the issuer will often restrict how much total credit is extended to you across all your Chase cards. For example, let’s say you have four Chase credit cards with $25,000 credit lines on each, and Chase has determined that you should only have a total spending limit of $100,000. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be immediately approved for another credit card. This isn’t due to the fact that it’s your fifth card — it’s simply a function of Chase deciding that you should only have a combined credit line of $100,000 across all of your accounts.

Fortunately, all hope is not lost if this happens. You can call Chase’s reconsideration line (1-888-245-0625) within a few days of your application and ask to shift around credit lines to get approval. You’ll then have five credit cards with the same $100,000 of total credit. I had to do this a few times when I was first building my credit history with Chase, though I haven’t had to on my last two applications.

Related reading: How bad is it to get denied for a credit card?

Number and timing of applications

Like the number of cards, there isn’t a formal, consistent policy that limits the number or timing of your applications with Chase. I’ve read that the general rule of thumb is to limit applications to one personal and one business card within 90 days, but I’ve also read reports of applicants being approved for two personal cards in a single month. If you manage to get approved for two personal cards on the same day, it’s likely that you will only have one hard inquiry on your account (business cards typically pull from a different department). Again, though, the big limitation is how much overall credit Chase will extend to you based on your credit history and profile.

It’s also worth pausing to talk about risk tolerance here. Chase (and Amex) have been known to unilaterally close all accounts of users they deem to be high-risk or potentially fraudulent. Unfortunately, on paper, award travel enthusiasts look very similar to calculated criminals. You might want to consider taking things slower and not rushing through your applications with Chase, even if there’s a chance you can get approved for more cards in a shorter period of time. One common thread I’ve heard among Chase shutdown stories was a barrage of recent credit inquiries (with Chase and other issuers) in the months leading up to the shutdown.

Chase’s one hard-and-fast application rule is commonly known as the 5/24 rule. It initially popped up in 2015 but spread across most of the issuer’s portfolio of cards in 2016. The rule is relatively simple on the surface: if you’ve opened five or more credit cards with any issuer over the previous 24 months, you will almost certainly be denied for most Chase-issued credit cards with little to no chance at reconsideration.

A few notes about this policy:

  • Chase will look at all accounts across all issuers. A common misconception about this rule is that Chase only looks at new cards that it issued. This is not true. If you’ve opened two Chase cards, two American Express cards, a Capital One card and a Bank of America card in the last two years, you’re at 6/24 and will likely get an immediate denial notice on most Chase cards.
  • You may be able to get approved if you’re just an authorized user. While success isn’t guaranteed, you may be able to get around the 5/24 rule if you’re just an authorized user on any of your “new” accounts from the previous two years. After immediately getting denied for my United Explorer Card, I was able to successfully get a phone agent to reconsider my application because the fifth new account on my credit report was actually my wife’s. However, I’ve generally read that this will only work if you’re right at five new cards in 24 months and one of them is an authorized user account (which happened to be my exact situation). Depending on your personal circumstances, you might want to consider removing yourself as an authorized user and waiting 30-60 days to apply so there’s less chance of the system automatically rejecting you.
  • Business cards generally don’t count. Even though you list your social security number when you apply for business cards, the accounts themselves sit on a separate business credit report and as such usually do not count against your 5/24 status. There are a few exceptions to this, such as business cards issued by Capital OneDiscover and TD Bank, which will show on your personal credit report and use up a 5/24 slot.

Sign-up offers

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Both Chase Sapphire cards can be quite rewarding, but be sure you understand how the sign-up bonuses work. (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Chase also imposes restrictions on earning sign-up bonuses, though these aren’t as strict as those of American Express. In general, you won’t be able to earn a sign-up bonus on a Chase card if you currently hold that card in your wallet or if you earned a sign-up bonus on that exact card in the last 24-48 months.

Here’s the specific language on most Chase cards’ application pages (this was copied from the Chase Freedom Unlimited‘s page):

“This product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.”

In other words, you must cancel or downgrade a card before reapplying for it, but you don’t need to wait two years to apply after cancelling. The 24-month waiting period starts when you receive the sign-up bonus, not when you cancel the card.

It’s also worth noting that there are some slight variations to this policy that apply to specific cards:

Interestingly enough, this “rule of pairs” doesn’t (as of now) appear to apply to the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which was launched in April 2018 to replace the old IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card.

Related reading: Maximize your wallet with the perfect quartet of Chase credit cards

Citi

The Citibank Corporate Office & Headquarters are viewed in midtown Manhattan July 14, 2014. Citigroup on Monday agreed to pay $7 billion to settle allegations it misled investors on mortgage-linked securities ahead of the financial crisis in the latest US crackdown on a financial giant. US Attorney General Eric Holder, calling Citi
Like the other two major issuers, Citi imposes its own set of credit card application restrictions. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Number of cards

Like Chase, Citi typically doesn’t limit the overall number of credit cards you’re allowed to have, instead using the same approach of limiting your overall credit across all of your Citi cards. Once you’ve reached that tipping point, you’ll likely be given the “application pending” notice when you apply for a new card. A quick call to Citi’s reconsideration line (1-800-695-5171) should help you get approved by moving some credit from another card to the new one.

That being said, one of my colleagues was actually immediately denied for the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® in January 2018, with the reason given that he had reached the “maximum number of Citi credit cards.” It’s unclear if that was based on the number of Citi cards he had open at the time of his application (seven) or if it was based on the number of cards he had opened with the issuer across his entire lifetime. Citi is also known to be incredibly sensitive to recent inquiries, so after you’ve used up your 5/24 slots with Chase you might want to consider applying for Citi cards next before your credit report gets too cluttered.

Number and timing of applications

Unlike American Express and Chase, Citi has very specific rules for how frequently you can apply for new credit cards. There are slightly different rules for personal and business cards:

  • You can only apply for one card (personal or business) every eight days and no more than two cards in a 65-day window.
  • You can only apply for one business card every 90 days.

Of course, there are plenty of reports out there with exceptions to these rules, but I would keep them both in mind when you’re applying for Citi cards.

Sign-up bonuses

Citi is another issuer that allows you to earn a sign-up bonus multiple times on a given credit card. However, there’s a mandatory waiting period between canceling and re-applying that you must follow: 24 months from either opening or closing the card. Here’s a sample of the language pulled from the application page of the Citi Prestige:

“Bonus ThankYou® Points are not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+℠, Citi ThankYou® Preferred, Citi ThankYou® Premier/Citi Premier℠ or Citi Prestige®, or if you have closed any of these accounts, in the past 24 months.”

What’s interesting about Citi’s policy is that the issuer focuses on when you closed the account, not just when you opened it or received a welcome bonus. In essence, this means that your 24-month clock starts ticking the moment you’re approved for a card. If you later close that card, the clock resets. You then need to wait 24 months from the date you closed your account to be eligible for a sign-up bonus on the card again. This has the perverse effect of encouraging users to close cards immediately if they don’t plan on using them long term, rather than waiting a year.

Unfortunately, Citi is stricter with some of its cobranded credit cards than it is with its core ThankYou-earning cards. While Cards like the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier follow the 24-month rule mentioned above, Citi’s portfolio of AAdvantage cards require you to wait 48 months in order to be eligible to earn the bonus again. For example, here’s the language found on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®:

“AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have received a new account bonus for a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® account in the past 48 months.”

Citi follows a similar policy to Chase when it comes to cards that are in the same general “family” or accrue points or miles in the same program, as you can see in the text above:

The information for the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi Premier Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

With all these rules in mind, let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

  1. You opened the ThankYou Preferred in May 2018 and earned the sign-up bonus shortly thereafter. You now want to open the Premier. You need to wait until June 2020 to ensure you’re outside of the 24-month window, and you should not close the ThankYou Preferred during that 24 month period or you’ll reset the clock back to zero.
  2. You opened the AAdvantage Platinum card in May 2018, earning the sign-up bonus shortly thereafter. You later cancelled the card in May 2019. If you’re then interested in the AAdvantage Executive card so you and your authorized users can access the Admirals Club, you must wait until May 2022 if you also want the sign-up bonus, since that will be more than 48 months since you earned your previous bonus. However, you could apply for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card earlier to take advantage of its elevated sign-up bonus, since Citi treats that as a separate card.

One important final note: if you request a downgrade on an existing card or change a card to a new product type, it may result in a reset of the 24-month clock. We actually answered a reader question along these lines in July 2017, with a direct response from Citi as follows:

“If they have converted but their account number has not changed, they will still qualify for the bonus.”

Unfortunately, I continue to read conflicting anecdotes online. Some people have downgraded or product changed a card, received a new account number and didn’t have the clock reset. Others did the same thing but did have the clock reset. As a result, my advice would be to take the conservative approach: do your best to not downgrade or change your existing card(s) until you have been approved for a new one with an applicable sign-up bonus. There’s simply too much uncertainty to know for sure how downgrading a card will impact your 24- or 48-month clock.

Related reading: The best Citi credit cards of 2020

Bank of America

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Number of cards

Like most issuers, Bank of America doesn’t have hard-and-fast rules regarding how many total cards you’re allowed to have. Given that it was previously possible to get approved for multiples of the same card in a very short period of time (which has since changed, as we’ll discuss), there are plenty of customers with Bank of America cards numbering into the double digits.

Number and timing of applications

Bank of America used to be one of the most flexible issuers when it came to approving applications. This began to change in 2017, as first documented on Reddit, and has since become known as the 2/3/4 rule:

  • You can only get approved for 2 new cards in a 30-day period
  • You can only get approved for 3 new cards in a 12-month period
  • You can only get approved for 4 new cards in a 24-month period

As a result, you could get approved for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card if you apply for both of them on the same day or within the same month. But if you then apply for another Bank of America card within two months of these applications, you’ll likely be denied. Data points indicate that this does not extend to business credit cards issued by the bank.

In addition, reports indicate that you can’t get approved for a second version of the same card within 90 days of your first application. So if you want to get two Alaska Airlines credit cards (to get the carrier’s companion ticket for your entire family, for example), you have to wait at least three months.

There are a few important distinctions between Bank of America’s 2/3/4 rule and Chase’s 5/24 rule. First, this policy has been formally communicated by the issuer’s customer service reps to applicants, though it’s worth noting that it is not posted online. Second, it only applies to cards issued by Bank of America, whereas Chase will look at all new cards across all issuers. That being said, the bank may still consider the total number of cards and hard inquiries you’ve had when it runs your credit, so you may get denied even if you fall below these thresholds.

This is a much more recent development, but we’re also seeing reports of Bank of America instituting a rule similar to Chase’s 5/24 that evaluates your account openings with all issuers. The twist is that this rule, known colloquially as the “7/12 and 3/12 rule,” gives preference to customers who have a banking relationship with BoA.

According to this rule, customers with a BofA deposit account will not be approved for new cards if they’ve opened seven cards (across all issuers) in the last 12 months, while customers without a BoA deposit account will be rejected if they’ve opened three or more cards in the last 12 months. This concept of rewarding existing banking customers tracks with the BoA Preferred Rewards program, which offers elevated cash-back earning rates based on the size of a customer’s eligible BoA account balance.

Finally, you may be able to work with a representative to reconsider your application if there’s a legitimate reason for applying for so many cards (hint: “I want the sign-up bonus” is likely not one that will work).

Related reading: The best Bank of America credit cards

Sign-up bonuses

Once you make it through these restrictions and actually get approved, the bank doesn’t have any published language restricting your sign-up bonuses. You can earn a sign-up bonus on the same card multiple times, as long as your applications are timed given the above rules and you’re actually approved for the card.

Barclaycard

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Number of cards

As is the case with most issuers already covered, Barclays typically doesn’t limit the number of cards you have open with them at any one time. The bank will, however, consider your overall credit profile before approving you, as noted by the following language on most of its card application pages:

“If at the time of your application you do not meet the credit or income criteria previously established for this offer, or the income you report is insufficient based on your current obligations, we will not be able to open an account for you.”

Given this information, it seems that a large number of cards, a high number of hard inquiries or large balances may still impact your chances of successfully opening a new card.

Number and timing of applications

Barclays isn’t known to have any specific rules or policies like 5/24 when it comes to applying for new cards. However, there are a few general rules of thumb to follow if you’re looking to apply for multiple cards issued by the bank in a short period of time:

  • You likely won’t get approved for multiple applications on the same day, even if you call reconsideration. However, Barclays will often combine these applications into a single hard inquiry.
  • You need to cancel an existing card and then wait for a period of time before re-applying for that card (the recommendation is six months).
  • Barclays has been known to look at prior spending on existing cards to determine approval for a new card. If you’re looking at a new one and currently have a card or two with the issuer and haven’t spent much (or anything), take them out of your desk drawer and use them for a few months before applying.

Again, these aren’t concrete rules but general guidelines to follow.

Sign-up bonuses

When it comes to sign-up bonuses, Barclays typically hasn’t prevented you from earning the sign-up bonus on a card multiple times, as long as you close the card first and then wait to apply (generally six months). However, the issuer does have a couple of notable items in the terms and conditions of popular cards like the JetBlue Plus Mastercard. The first is as follows:

“This offer is available to new cardmembers only.”

This could be interpreted in two ways. One would be that you’re not eligible for the bonus if you’re currently a cardholder of the card. The second is a bit more concerning: if you’ve had the card before, even if it’s been a year or more since it was opened, you’re technically not a “new cardmember” of the card.

This latter interpretation is potentially reinforced by different language on most Barclays-issued cards. The exact verbiage varies slightly, but here’s what it looks like on the AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard‘s application page (emphasis mine):

“You may not be eligible for this offer if you currently have or previously had an account with us in this program. In addition, you may not be eligible for this offer if, at any time during our relationship with you, we have cause, as determined by us in our sole discretion, to suspect that the account is being obtained or will be used for abusive or gaming activity (such as, but not limited to, obtaining or using the account to maximize rewards earned in a manner that is not consistent with typical consumer activity and/or multiple credit card account applications/openings).”

The vague wording here means in a worst-case scenario, you could be approved for a new card as a previous cardholder, meet the minimum spending threshold and still miss out on a sign-up bonus if Barclaycard decides you’re ineligible for any of the above reasons. While you may have a perfectly legitimate reason for getting a second iteration of a card (e.g.: a new job with extensive travel on JetBlue), just be aware that a sign-up bonus may not be part of the package.

The information for the JetBlue Plus Mastercard and AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Capital One

(Photo by Ileana Ravasio/Attimi Photography for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ileana Ravasio/Attimi Photography for The Points Guy)

Number of cards

Unlike most of the others on this list, Capital One does restrict the number of personal cards you have in your wallet to two. As a result, if you have the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you won’t be able to open the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card to take advantage of that card’s Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit.

Note that this typically only applies to personal cards managed by Capital One — cobranded cards and small-business cards (like the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business) are generally excluded. The information for the Capital One Savor, Capital One Quicksilver, Capital One Venture and Capital One Spark Cash card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Number and timing of applications

Capital One is also known to have a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to timing your applications. You’re only able to get approved for one card every six months. This lumps personal and small business cards together, so if you open the Venture card today, you’ll need to wait at least six months before applying for the Spark Cash card (for example). While this is the most stringent rule of the issuers on this list, the two-card limit noted above means that you aren’t truly missing out on much by being forced to wait at least six months between applications. Capital One is also known to be incredibly sensitive to recent inquiries, and many people (myself included) have received multiple rejection letters for the Capital One Venture Rewards Card despite a nearly perfect credit score.

Sign-up bonuses

The issuer has been known to award sign-up bonuses multiple times on the same card if you follow the above rules and are approved. However, just like Barclaycard, I see some language on the website for most Capital One cards that gives the issuer the right to not award the sign-up bonus. Here’s the specific verbiage from the Venture Rewards card’s application page:

“The bonus may not be available for existing or previous account holders.”

Once again, the use of the vague term “may not be available” seems to imply that you might be rolling the dice on applying for a new card and earning a bonus if you’re a current or past holder of that card.

Related reading: The best Capital One credit cards of 2020

Wells Fargo

Number of cards

Just like most of the above issuers, Wells Fargo generally doesn’t limit the number of cards you can have, but the normal recommendations apply regarding your overall credit profile.

Number and timing of applications

Given that Wells Fargo is one of the smaller credit card issuers out there, we don’t have a ton of data around the number of applications you can have with the bank. However, there’s a phrase on the terms and conditions page for most Wells Fargo-issued cards that’s worth repeating here:

“You may not qualify for an additional Wells Fargo credit card if you have opened a Wells Fargo credit card in the last 6 months.”

Once again, we run into that vague “may not” language, indicating that you could be denied for a new Wells Fargo card if you have one with the bank that’s less than six months old (and you may want to wait even longer — see the next section).

Many reports indicate that Wells Fargo is another issuer (like Bank of America) that often considers your “relationship status” with the bank when determining whether to approve you for a card. As a result, you may waste an application if you’re not currently a Wells Fargo customer or if you recently opened a new card with the bank.

Sign-Up bonuses

In addition to the above items, Wells Fargo also has a relatively draconian (yet simultaneously vague) policy on welcome bonuses. Here’s the specific language from the terms and conditions of the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card:

“You may not be eligible for introductory annual percentage rates, fees, and/or bonus rewards offers if you opened a Wells Fargo Credit card within the last 15 months from the date of this application and you received introductory APR(s), fees, and/or bonus rewards offers, even if that account is closed and has a $0 balance.”

Note that this is a blanket policy that applies to all Wells Fargo-issued cards. Though it again includes the term “may not,” reports indicate this 15-month language is generally enforced. So when you combine this language with the above six month rule, I’d recommend spacing out any Wells Fargo applications by at least 15 months to ensure you’re eligible for any welcome bonuses.

The information for the Wells Fargo Cash Wise has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.          

Related reading: The best Wells Fargo credit cards of 2020

Bottom line

Top travel credit cards are a great way to quickly add points and miles to your various loyalty account balances, and many carry a wealth of valuable perks in addition to an initial sign-up bonus. Unfortunately, if you misunderstand the nuances of each issuer’s application restrictions, you could be left with a hard inquiry plus a missed welcome bonus — or, even worse, a hard inquiry with a flat-out denial. While the policies above are a mix of “rules” and “guidelines,” I’d strongly encourage you to pay close attention to them as you plan out your next set of applications.

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, click here.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.