Applying for Credit Cards – The Rules for Each Bank [Limits, Bonus Eligibility & More]

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Applying for credit cards can be a nerve-wracking proposition. Even more so if you’re new to the world of points and miles.

All of the major credit card issuers have different rules and guidelines when it comes to new applications for cards, the number of cards they will allow you to hold, and whether or not you will be eligible for a welcome bonus.

The rules credit issuers put in place are constantly changing, and often times becoming more and more restrictive. To help keep all of the different policies in place, we’ve put together a master guide for 9 of the major credit card issuers that outline each of their guidelines on the number of cards you can hold with them, their application rules, and welcome bonus eligibility.

So, let’s get to it!

American Express Credit Cards

Card Limits

American Express limits customers to have a total of 5 Amex credit cards open at any one time. This includes both personal credit cards and business credit cards but does not apply to their charge cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express or American Express® Gold Card.

This is not to say that is impossible to have more than 5 credit cards with American Express, as there will always be exceptions, but those cases are few and far between. So if you currently have 5 (or more) Amex credit cards, you extremely unlikely to be approved for another. However, there’s no limit on the number of charge cards you can have open at 1 time.

Curious about the difference between a credit card and a charge card? Charge cards, like the Amex Platinum do not have a fixed monthly spending limit but you are required to pay your balance in full each month.

Credit cards, on the other hand, do have a fixed credit limit but allow you to carry a balance from month to month. Because of this, we strongly advise that you continue to pay your statement balance in full each and every month.

Application Rules

American Express has a number of rules regarding how often you can get approved for their credit cards. While these rules are not published, here are some guidelines to follow based on our writing team’s experiences.

You’re limited to 1 approved credit card every 5-day rolling period and 2 approved credit cards every 90 day rolling period. This rule only applies to credit cards and not their charge cards. So, given that, you could apply for 1 credit card and 1 charge card on the same day (or 2 charge cards), but if you apply for 2 credit cards, the second application will, almost certainly, result in a denial.

Hot Tip: Why would you consider applying for 2 cards in 1 day? Generally, as long as all of your applications are approved on the same day, American Express will combine multiple hard inquiries into a single inquiry, reducing the impact those new cards have on your credit score. 

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

Unlike many other card issuers, American Express will only allow you to earn the welcome bonus on their cards once per lifetime.

In fact, if you look closely at the terms and conditions when applying for a new card you will see this statement: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” 

This means if you currently have (or have had) a particular card, you are not eligible to earn the welcome bonus again. This restriction applies across the entire Amex portfolio of cards but there are a couple of workarounds.

For example, if you’re a cardholder of the personal version of Amex Gold and decide that you’d like to open up the business version, the American Express Business Gold Card, you’re still eligible for the welcome bonus.

Even though these are both “Gold cards” that are apart of the same family of charge cards, you can receive the welcome bonus for each since they are separate products. The same goes for similar instances across the entire suite of Amex cards like the multiple different Delta card options and Hilton card options.

Hot Tip: If you can’t remember whether or not you’ve had a specific card before, American Express offers a tool that allows you to double-check your eligibility for a welcome bonus. This check takes place automatically during your application process before the application is submitted.

If you’re not eligible for the bonus you will receive a pop-up on your screen that informs you of this, and can then withdraw the application before Amex performs a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Since you’re only eligible to receive American Express welcome bonuses once in a lifetime, you’ll want to be certain that you’re getting a great offer before submitting your application, like the amazing 100,000 point welcome bonus offer for Amex Platinum. You can also use resources like the Card Match Tool to help locate other great offers.

Bank of America Credit Cards

Card Limits

Unlike American Express, Bank of America does not have a hard limit on the number of credit cards you can hold with them. However, they likely have a cap on the total credit limit that they are willing to extend to you based on your stated income and spending habits. In this case, you may need to lower your credit limits on certain cards in order to get approved for new ones.

Application Rules

In terms of application restrictions, Bank of America has the 2/3/4 rule, which allows you to be approved for:

  • 2 new cards in a 2-month period
  • 3 new cards in a 12-month period
  • 4 new cards in a 24-month period

This means you could apply for 2 Bank of America cards within the same month or even the same day. But if you apply for a third within 2 months, a fourth within 12 months, or a fifth within 24 months, you will very likely be denied.

Furthermore, recent reports are indicating that Bank of America also has a 7/12 rule and 3/12 rule that they have implemented to new applications. These rules state that if you have a bank account with Bank of America and you have opened 7 new cards in the past 12 months, your application will be denied.

If you do not have a bank account with Bank of America and you have opened 3 new cards in the past 12 months, your application will be denied.

It appears that business credit cards do not currently fall under this rule, but that certainly does not mean you’re guaranteed to get approved if you’ve over either of those limits.

Hot Tip: Not sure if you’re eligible to be approved for a business credit card? It’s actually much easier than you might think! Check out our guide on how to get approved for a business credit card.

It is worth mentioning that, much like the Chase 5/24 rule, this applies to cards from all issuers, not just Bank of America cards. Having any sort of banking relationship with Bank of America, with no minimum deposit, will immediately move you from the 3/12 limit to the 7/12 limit.

Finally, Bank of America does not allow you to open up a credit card if you currently have or have had the card in the last 24 month period. This is known as their 24-month rule.

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

Bank of America does not have any restrictions on earning a welcome bonus. In fact, you can earn a welcome bonus on the same card multiple times, as long as you are in line with the application rules and you’re actually approved for the card. While it is possible to get the welcome bonus on the same card twice, the 24-month rule makes it so you need to wait at least 2 years after opening the original card before applying again.

Woman Using Credit Card on Laptop
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Barclays Credit Cards

Card Limits

Barclays does not have a limit on the number of cards they will approve you for. With that said, they will still consider your overall credit profile before approving you. Having a large number of cards open, a high number of hard inquiries, or large balances may impact your chances of being approved for a new card.

Application Rules

Barclays has a few general guidelines that are helpful to follow when applying for their cards. These are not hard and fast rules, so following them will not guarantee your acceptance, nor will you automatically be denied if you don’t.

For starters, you can apply for multiple cards in 1 day, and while it is unlikely that both will be automatically approved, Barclays will often combine these applications into a single hard inquiry.

Data points have shown that Barclays will have a look at the prior spending on your current cards to determine whether to approve you for a new card. So if you’re considering opening a new card with the issuer, and seldom put spend on the current card you have, you may want to work that current card into your regular rotation for a few months before submitting an application.

Hot Tip: A final Barclays rule to be aware of is the 6/24 rule. While it is a soft rule that they don’t apply in all cases, it has been listed as a reason for denial for enough people to be worth mentioning.

Similar to the 5/24 rule, the 6/24 rule kicks in if you have more than 6 new accounts on your credit report in the last 24-months. Unlike the 5/24 rule, with Barclays, you can still get approved for new cards even if you have over 6 new accounts in the last 24 months. At present, they seem to apply this rule at-will.

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

With Barclays, you can earn a welcome bonus on the same card multiple times as long as you close the card first and then wait at least 6 months to apply again. You should look carefully at the terms and conditions before submitting your application, though, as some cards like the Lufthansa Miles & More® card have verbiage in their terms and conditions that states, “you may not be eligible for this offer if you currently have or previously had an account with us in this program.”

While that is rather ambiguous and doesn’t flat out say that former cardholders are not eligible, there’s always the chance that you could be approved for the card, meet the minimum spending requirement, and then be denied the welcome bonus if Barclays decides you’re ineligible.

Capital One Credit Cards

Card Limits

Capital One does limit the number of personal cards you can open with them to just 2 cards.

However, this only applies to Capital One-branded cards (like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards card) and not co-branded cards or business cards (like the Bass Pro Shops CLUB card or the Spark® Cash card). Cards that have been product changed due to other cards being discontinued do not count either (even if they are Capital One-branded cards).

Application Rules

Capital One will only approve you for 1 credit card every 6 months, and this applies to both personal and business credit cards. So, if you open the Capital One® Savor® Rewards card today, you’ll have to wait at least 6 months before applying for a card like the Venture.

Keep in mind that once you’ve reached your 2 card limit on Capital One-branded cards, no amount of time between applications will help you get approved for a third.

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

In the past, Capital One has allowed cardholders to receive a welcome bonus on the same card multiple times. As long as you’re approved for the card you should get the bonus. They will even allow you to have 2 of the same card concurrently and get the bonus on both, and you don’t have to cancel the first to receive the bonus on the second.

Similar to Barclays, the terms and conditions for most cards do state, “The bonus may not be available for existing or previous account holders.”

While that is quite vague, and even though cardholders have received a welcome bonus multiple times in the past, the words “may not be available” sort of allude that you may be denied from earning a bonus if you’re a current or past holder of that card.

Chase Credit Cards

Card Limits

Chase does not officially restrict the number of credit cards that you can hold, but rather a cap on the overall credit limit they are willing to extend to you.

As mentioned, Chase is more concerned with the total level of credit they extend to you rather than the number of cards you have. So how do you know what that limit is? Well, you really don’t. Generally, they will set a limit in relation to your stated income on your applications.

If you find yourself rejected for a card with the reason being that they’ve already extended too much credit to you, you can easily call their reconsideration line and ask that they transfer some of your credit limit from your current cards to the new card.

Hot Tip: If you’re concerned that you may be nearing your max credit limit with Chase and want to improve your odds at being approved for a new card, you can preemptively lower the credit limits on your current cards before submitting your application. Simply send Chase a message via their secure message center, inform them that you’d like your credit limits lowered and the amount you’d like them lowered by — and they will take care of it!

Application Rules

Even if you’re brand new to the world of points and miles, you’ve likely already heard about the Chase 5/24 rule. But if not, the rule is pretty simple to follow. The 5/24 rule states that if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards with any issuer over the past 24 months, you will be denied from all credit cards in the Chase portfolio with near certainty.

While Chase has never officially confirmed this rule exists, you’ll know you were denied due to the 5/24 rule if your rejection letter states, “too many credit cards opened within the last 2 years.”

One exception to this rule is if 1 or more of your new credit cards in the last 24 months are cards that you’re an authorized user on. If this is the case you will likely still receive a denial for the card after you apply, but you can call and explain the situation to one of their reconsideration agents who can then approve you for the card.

Again, the 5/24 rule applies to all new credit card accounts from all issuers but does not include things like auto loans, mortgages, or personal loans.

In some cases, Chase business credit cards will also not count towards the 5/24 rule. This is entirely dependent on whether or not the business card has been reported to your personal credit report. For instance, business credit cards from issuers like American Express, Citibank, and even Chase, do not report to your personal credit report.

So opening a business card with these issuers will not add to your x/24 count. On the other hand, there are issuers like Capital One whose business credit cards do report to your personal credit report, so always make sure to double-check which cards report where before hitting submit on that credit card application!

Hot Tip: Curious how to figure out where you stand when it comes to the Chase 5/24 rule? The easiest way to calculate your x/24 count is to use a free service like Credit Karma which provides the details of each credit account you’ve opened and the date on which you opened it.

Once you can see each of your account dates, simply count up each new account you’ve opened in the last 24 months to determine your x/24 figure.

Chase will typically not approve you for more than 2 of their credit cards in a single month (business and personal cards are considered separate). If you manage to get approved for 2 personal cards on the same day, Chase will combine them into 1 hard inquiry on your credit report.

If you do happen to get approved for 2 cards in the same day or month, you’re probably best off waiting at least 90 days before applying for another card with Chase. In the past, Chase has not looked favorably upon people opening too many cards within a short time frame which has even lead to some accounts being shut down.

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

Chase will allow you to earn a welcome bonus on a card more than once as long as it has been at least 24 months since you last earned the bonus. The specific wording on the Chase application pages states:

“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.”

There are a few exceptions to this rule along some of Chase’s “family cards.” Cards in the Sapphire family — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Sapphire Reserve® — require you to wait 48 months.

So if you receive the welcome bonus for the Sapphire Preferred, you need to wait 48 months from that date in order to be eligible to receive the welcome bonus for the Sapphire Reserve or a second Sapphire Preferred.

If you receive the welcome bonus on any of the Southwest family of personal cards — including the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card — you’re not eligible to receive the welcome bonus on the others for 24 months. This does not apply, however, to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.

Finally, in the Marriott Bonvoy card family, you must wait 24 months between welcome bonuses on the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card.

Chase credit cards and cash
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Citibank Credit Cards

Card Limits

Citibank typically doesn’t limit the overall number of credit cards you’re allowed to have. However, they will limit the overall credit they are willing to extend to you across all of your Citi cards. When you start to reach this limit you will either need to close certain cards you have open, lower your credit limits, or move some of the credit you currently have to the new card.

Application Rules

Citibank separates its application rules by both personal and business cards.

  • You can only apply for 1 personal card every 8 days and no more than 2 in a 65-day window.
  • You can only apply for 1 business card every 95 days.

If you’re planning to time your applications around these restrictions, you may want to wait a few extra days past the 65-day and 95-day windows, just to play it safe.

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

Citibank will allow you to earn a welcome bonus on any given card multiple times provided it’s been at least 24 months from either opening or closing the card. This is an incredibly important distinction to keep in mind when planning your card applications.

For example, if you were to open the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, you would need to wait 24 months from that date before you were eligible to receive the welcome bonus again. However, if you were to decide to cancel that card before that 24 month period ended, the eligibility clock will re-set and you will now need to wait 24 months from the date you canceled the card. 

Additionally, Citibank places limits on how often you can earn welcome bonuses for cards within the same “family.” The 2 families of cards that are bound by these restrictions are cards that earn ThankYou points and cards that earn AAdvantage miles.

ThankYou Rewards cards include Citi Prestige® Card, Citi Premier℠ Card, and Citi Rewards+℠ Card. This means, if you open, close, or product change to one of these cards, you will be ineligible for a welcome bonus on that card, and the other 2, for at least 24 months.

American Airlines cards, on the other hand, are bound by a 48-month restriction. These include the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, the AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite card, and the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ card. However, it does not include the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®. So in this case, you can earn the bonus on both the business card and 1 of the personal cards options within a 48-month period.

Bottom Line: As a reminder, opening a new card, closing an old card, product changing to a new card, or even downgrading your card can all re-set your 24-month eligibility clock, so make that decision carefully and be certain it is the best option for you before moving forward.

Discover Credit Cards

Card Limits

You can have a maximum of 2 credit cards issued by Discover. Your first account needs to be open for 1 year before the second can be opened. This obviously means that multiple inquiries on the same day will not be merged, as you can only apply for 1 card at a time.

Application Rules

At the present time, Discover does not have any rules or guidelines regarding card applications.

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

It is possible to receive a welcome bonus multiple times on any given Discover card, and receiving a welcome bonus on any given card does not restrict you from receiving a bonus on others. Just remember that you can only hold 2 cards at most with Discover and that your first needs to be open for an entire year before you can be approved for a second.

businessman paying with credit card
Image Credit: Shutterstock

U.S. Bank Credit Cards

Card Limits

U.S. Bank does not have a hard limit on the number of credit cards you can hold with them, but rather the total amount of credit they are willing to extend to you.

Application Rules

U.S. Bank only has just 1 application rule and it is only applied to their U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card. The rule states that U.S. Bank wants you to have a prior relationship, either through another credit card or bank account, before they will approve you for the Altitude Reserve card.

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

You can receive a welcome bonus on U.S. Bank cards multiple times and there are no hard limits or required waiting periods.

Wells Fargo Credit Cards

Card Limits

Like other issuers, Wells Fargo doesn’t limit the number of cards you can hold with them; they are more concerned with the total amount of credit a cardholder has.

Application Rules

The language on the Wells Fargo website states that, “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.” Additionally, like U.S. Bank, data points have shown that Wells Fargo will consider your “relationship status” with the bank when determining whether to approve you for a new credit card.

Welcome Bonus Eligibility

Wells Fargo requires you to wait 16 months between receiving the welcome bonus on their cards. Personal and business cards are separate, though, so you can get 1 personal card and 1 business card within 16 months.

Final Thoughts

When you break each issuer down one-by-one, it seems like banks have nearly as many rules about credit cards as they do credit cards themselves! If you do not have a good understanding of the credit issuer policies for the card you’re applying for, you could easily end up missing on the welcome bonus or being denied for the card. This is precisely why we put this guide together so that you can stay informed with the ever-changing landscape of credit card application rules.

It is important to mention that credit cards are powerful financial tools that can be extremely rewarding when used responsibly. This means not spending beyond your means and keeping your balances paid off in full each month to avoid incurring any fees.

Again, credit card issuers are known to update their policies suddenly and without warning, so be sure to refer back to this guide periodically for new updates as rules change.


The information for the Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®,  Citi Prestige® Card, Citi Premier℠ Card, Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, and the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ card has been collected independently by Upgraded Points. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.


FAQ

What is the Chase 5/24 rule?

The Chase 5/24 rule states that if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards with any issuer over the past 24 months, you will be denied from all credit cards in the Chase portfolio. This does not include things like auto loans, mortgages, or personal loans. In some cases, business credit cards will also not count towards the 5/24 rule, as long as they are not reported to your personal credit report.

Do credit card application rules vary by bank?

Yes, application rules can vary greatly by bank so it is very important that you know the rules and guidelines before applying so that you don’t miss out on a welcome bonus or get denied.

Do business credit cards count towards your personal credit report?

Many business credit cards do not count towards your personal credit, like business cards from issuers like American Express, Citibank, or Barclays, for example. However, business credit cards from Capital One do report to your personal credit report! So be certain which business cards do and do not report before applying.

How can you calculate whether you are over 5/24?

The easiest way to calculate your x/24 count is to use a free service like Credit Karma which provides the details of each credit account you’ve opened and the date on which you opened it. Once you can see each of your account dates, simply count up each new account you’ve opened in the last 24 months to determine your x/24 figure. Do keep in mind that this only applies to new credit card accounts, so things like auto loans do not add to your 5/24 count.

How many credit cards can you have with American Express?

Generally, you can have up to 5 credit cards with American Express. This includes business credit cards but does not include charge cards like Amex Platinum.

Does applying for credit cards hurt your credit score?

Applying for a new credit card and receiving a hard inquiry on your credit report can generally drop your credit score around 2-5 points. However, the more credit card accounts you have, and the higher credit limit you have, the better your score will be due to having a lower utilization. Just always be certain to pay your balances off in full each month!

Do too many open credit cards hurt your credit score?

Having more credit cards can actually improve your credit score because they provide more available credit to you which helps lower your credit utilization. Keeping your credit utilization low and paying your bills off in full each month are key to receiving and keeping a high credit score.

Is it better to cancel unused credit cards or keep them?

That depends! If you have a credit card you don’t use much anymore but it doesn’t have an annual fee, then there is no reason to cancel it. The reason for this is older credit cards help improve your overall age of accounts.

On the other hand, if you have an older credit card that is charging you an annual fee each year that you are not receiving any value from, you are probably better off canceling that card or downgrading it to a no-annual-fee option.

Is there a limit to how many total credit cards I can have?

While there are limits to how many credit cards you can hold with certain banks, there are no limits to the total number of credit cards one can hold.

Jarrod West

About Jarrod West

Born and raised just outside of Cincinnati, Jarrod became fascinated with using points and miles as the perfect way to visit dream destinations without breaking the bank. Thanks to points and miles, Jarrod was able to spend 3 months traveling Europe financed nearly entirely with points and miles; while flying in premium cabins and staying in 5-star hotels along the way. To date, Jarrod has traveled to 16 countries and 22 US states.

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