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Alongside keeping track of rewards card applications and managing your credit score, it’s essential to understand the credit card application rules for each credit provider. How many cards can you hold? Are there restrictions on how many cards you can apply for? Can you hold more than one of the same card?
The internet is flush with incomplete and misinformation about what you can and cannot do; we wanted to provide a resource that shares information available from the financial institutions and card issuers, combined with the experiences and data points of the award travel community in one place.
To be abundantly clear, these are not all official rules published by any financial institution, but rather anecdotal evidence supported by data from the points and miles community, including readers like you.
These rules have an enormous impact on how you approach rewards travel, and understanding them will help you plan a long-term, sustainable approach to swapping points and miles for excellent travel experiences.
The different rules for each credit provider affect how many cards you can hold at any one time, if you can receive a bonus more than once, or limit how much credit you can access across all cards you hold with that provider.
We’ll update this post as rules change or new information comes to light, so if we’ve missed a provider you would like to see included, or you have a data point to add to one of the listed providers, please reach out in the comments at the bottom of the post.
Credit Card Application Rules by Credit Provider
Before we dig in, it’s important to note that not all the restrictions here are hard and fast ‘rules.’ There are restrictions such as Amex's ‘one bonus per card per lifetime‘ for example, which are clearly communicated. Others, like Chase’s 5/24 policy, are derived from a combination of data points supplied by the points and miles community, guidelines described by the provider, and policies printed in error and then retracted.
|Maximum Number of Cards Allowed||Credit Card Application Frequency||Receive New Cardmember Bonus More Than Once?||Waiting Period Between New Cardmember Bonuses|
|American Express||5x credit cards and 1 of each charge card||Max 2x credit cards per 90 days (e.g. 1x business + 1x personal), no known limit for charge cards.||No||One welcome bonus per card, per lifetime
|Chase||No card limit. Limit on total line of credit across all cards.||All UR earning cards and most (if not all) co-brand cards subject to 5/24, see linked post for list of affected cards. 1 personal + 1 business card per 90 days.||Yes||24 months after last receiving bonus and not a current cardholder
|Citibank||No card limit. Limit on total line of credit across all cards.||Max 1 personal card per 8 days + 2x total cards per 65 days. Max 1 business card per 95 days.||Yes||Can receive signup bonus if you haven't opened OR closed card from the same family of cards in previous 24 months. One signup bonus per card family per 24 months|
|Capital One||Max 2x consumer cards per card family (e.g. 2x Capital One branded cards)||1 personal or 1 business card per 6 months.||Yes||No waiting period outside of application frequency|
|Barclays||No set limit but no more than one of each card.||1 card per 6 months and only 1 card at a time - Arrival Plus specific 6/24 rule (unlikely to be approved if you've opened 6+ new cards in 24 months)||Yes||No set policy. If reapplying for same card, must cancel card and wait 6 months before reapplying|
|Bank of America||Majority of cardholders allowed maximum 4x cards.||2 new Bank of America cards in any 2 months period.|
3 new Bank of America cards in any 12 months period.
4 new Bank of America cards in any 24 months period.
|Yes||Must wait 24 months after closing a card to open the same card. Applications subject to 2/3/4 rule|
|Wells Fargo||No card limit. Limit on total line of credit across all cards.||1 card per 6 months and only 1 card at a time.||Yes||Eligible for one Wells Fargo introductory offer every 15 months|
American Express Credit & Charge Card Application Rules
- Maximum Number of Cards – You can hold 4 credit cards & we know of no confirmed limited on charge cards (other than one of each card). There's plenty of reports online of applicants getting a 5th credit or charge card from Amex, but it appears to be a hit and miss affair with little information on why applicants do/don’t get over the line. You can spread the total number of cards across both personal and business cards, or stick within one category.
- Application Frequency – You can safely apply for two Amex cards in a single day (e.g. 1x business + 1x personal, or 1x credit + 1x charge); however, one will likely be held up for review as a fraud prevention measure. Amex restricts credit card applications to two every 90 days although we've encountered exceptions when applying for a combination of credit and charge cards.
- Welcome Bonus Restrictions – Amex has the strictest new cardmember bonus restrictions of travel rewards card providers. You can receive a welcome bonus for each product just once per lifetime. The good news is that Amex has a wide variety of cards available and, unlike the Citi policy, the restriction is not per card family. If you've received the welcome bonus on The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can still receive the bonus on the American Express® Gold Card. You can also get the bonus on both personal and business versions of a card, so if you’ve received the bonus on a consumer co-brand card, you can still receive the bonus on the business version. Here's the language (or similar) that you'll see on welcome bonus restrictions:
“Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”
- Additional Terms Added (June 7, 2018) – On June 7, 2018, American Express further modified the language on welcome bonuses and offers to state:
“Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. We 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.”
The bolded language in the addition, while potentially ambiguous, has clearly been added to prevent gaming of any associated bonuses. This means that while you could be approved for the card, you might not be eligible for the bonus. Amex has added an eligibility tool to help applicants determine if they qualify for a new cardmember welcome bonus, with a pop-up appearing during the application process to indicate if you're eligible for the welcome offer on a new card.
There are also additional restrictions on the welcome bonuses for the new Marriott co-brand cards. The new rules are confusing, to say the least, and require a dedicated post breaking down the eligibility requirements for each card.
Chase Credit Card Application Rules
UPDATE 12/10/18: Chase has tightened up the application requirements for many, if not all of its rewards credit cards, and is now applying the 5/24 policy across its entire range of rewards cards. We cover the changes in more detail in this dedicated post.
UPDATE 8/29/17: Chase has updated its terms and conditions for the Sapphire family of credit cards. If you already have a Sapphire card, or have received a Sapphire card signup bonus anytime in the previous 48 months, you can no longer apply for a second Sapphire product.
“This product is available to you if you do not have any Sapphire card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months.”
You can catch a full write-up on the changes in our detailed post.
- Maximum Number of Cards – Chase has no formal policy on the number of cards you can hold, with plenty of cardholders possessing multiple flavors of the same card family amongst a full stable of Chase products. However, Chase restricts the total line of credit available to you across all Chase personal cards. If for example, you have 6 cards totaling $80K in credit limits, and Chase considers $80K the ceiling for your current income and liabilities, you'd need to have a chat with your banker to see if they would allow you to reallocate your credit from already existing lines of credit to a new line
- Application Frequency – Again, no formal position from Chase in writing but we've covered Chase’s application rules in detail over the last 18 months due to their restrictive nature. The chief policy affecting Chase applicants is 5/24. If 5 or more credit cards have been added to your credit report in the previous 24 months from ANY provider, it is highly likely you will be denied when applying for select Chase rewards cards. The restriction applies to all Ultimate Rewards earning cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, alongside the Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt, and other co-brand cards from Chase. It’s also important to distinguish between cards subject to 5/24, and those that count towards 5/24, a subject we deep-dive in our post listing all cards subject to the Chase 5/24 policy. Besides 5/24, Chase also restricts the number of cards you can apply for in 30 and 90 day periods. Our recommendation is applying for only 1 personal and 1 business card from Chase in a 90 day period if you want to maximize your chance of having applications accepted.
- Signup Bonus Restrictions – While you may need to talk with a banker at Chase to receive an approval, it’s much less restrictive than Amex if you choose to come back to a card that you've previously held. The majority of Chase products state you can earn the bonus again 24 months after you last received it, as long as you're not a current cardmember of that product.
“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.”
The exception to this rule is the Sapphire cards as mentioned above, and the Southwest and Marriott-specific rules which cross over into Amex applications. The restrictions on Southwest cards are relatively easy to understand:
“The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to Cardmembers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card and Employee Credit Card products.”
The application restrictions on Marriott co-brand cards are a different beast altogether, confounding even the most experienced points and miles fans. We've put together a post detailing the new rules card-by-card, plus a fantastic guide from Award Travel 101 founder Richard Kerr detailing the best application strategy for Marriott cards.
Citi Credit Card Application Rules
- Maximum Number of Cards – Much like Chase, Citi doesn’t have a hard and fast rule on the number of cards you can have. Instead, it restricts the combined total credit limit extended across all Citi cards. If you get the ‘Application Pending’ notice, Citi will often provide you an application reference number and a phone number to call for an immediate review of the application.
- Application Frequency – Citi has tight restrictions on application frequency which are easy to understand if a little frustrating. You can only apply for one personal card per eight-day period, and only two cards in a 65 day period. Business accounts are even harder to get, with Citi accepting just one business card application every 95 days.
- Signup Bonus Restrictions – Citi has a 24-month cycle for collecting signup bonuses, with a twist. If you open a card and receive the signup bonus, you can receive the bonus again after 24 months of having the card open (by opening another of the same card), OR, if you close the card inside the first 24 months, you need to wait 24 months from the date you closed the card to receive the bonus again on a new card account. Citi also restricts signup bonuses across entire families of rewards cards, so if you received a bonus on the Citi Prestige® Card, for example, you’d need to wait 24 months before receiving the bonus on the Citi Premier℠ Card as they belong to the same rewards family. The same applies to Citi AAdvantage cards.
“American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.”
Capital One Credit Card Application Rules
- Maximum Number of Cards – There is a ton of conflicting information on Capital One cards, but from the available info, you can hold a maximum of two Capital One branded cards and at any one time. We found no specific cap on the total number of cards you can hold; the restrictions apply to a cap on each family of cards. For example, you can hold two Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card‘s alongside a Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, but you could not hold three Capital One Venture cards. We would welcome more data on this, so if you have specific examples, please let us know in the comments.
- Application Frequency – Capital One’s application rules are simple; 1 card every 6 months. There is no distinction between personal and business cards, and by all reports Capital One doesn’t even perform a hard pull on your file, flagging all applications that follow the first one as ‘duplicates.’ You can apply for the same card after six months but only if you don’t already hold two cards from the same family. Keep in mind when applying for Capital One cards they pull from all three credit bureaus. Capital One business cards are also reported on your personal credit report and will count towards your Chase 5/24 count.
- Bonus Restrictions – The general rule for Capital One cards; if you’re approved, you’ll receive the bonus. There is no set time period between bonuses and no restriction on specific families of card, just the application and max number of cards mentioned above.
Barclays Credit Card Application Rules
- Maximum Number of Cards – There is no set limit, but Barclays is pretty stringent on how many cards you can hold, and won’t allow you to hold more than one of the same card. Barclays appears to factor in how often you use current cards, in addition to standard considerations when deciding on new card applications.
- Application Frequency – Stick to one card every six months and only one card at a time. Barclays is not flexible on application frequency.
- Signup Bonus Restrictions – Similar to Capital One, if you're approved, you’ll get the bonus. If you already hold the card, you must cancel it and wait around six months to get the card again, and Barclays will not let you downgrade to a card within the same family to get the signup bonus on the current card.
Bank of America Credit Card Application Rules
- Maximum Number of Cards – Bank of America used to be the most generous credit provider for opening and holding multiple cards but that no longer appears to be the case. Recent posts on DoC and a bunch of data points on Flyertalk and Reddit show that BoA is clamping down on account holders they think have too many cards, sometimes closing older accounts before new ones (based on the lowest credit limit first). The data for this is inconsistent as the changes are only recent, but it appears BoA is restricting the majority of account holders to a maximum 4 cards. If you have any data points, please let us know.
- Application Frequency – New data would suggest that BoA has tightened its belt for new card applications; see the 2/3/4 rule (2 cards per 2-month period, 3 new cards per rolling 12-month period, and 4 cards per rolling 24-month period. These numbers are specific to BoA cards, and other bank-issued cards aren't counted when calculating the 2/3/4 rule). BoA used to accept multiple applications in a single day, sometimes even for the same card! However, with reports of applications denied, and sometimes, accounts closed and points forfeited, we’d suggest holding off on applying for multiple cards at the same time and to think long-term.
- Signup Bonus Restrictions – Most cards now subject to a 24-month waiting period: You cannot get a card if you currently have (or had in the previous 24 months) the same card.
Wells Fargo Credit Card Application Rules
- Maximum Number of Cards – Wells Fargo doesn't provide a formal limit on the number of cards you can hold, however, appears to limit the total line of credit for each customer. Given the inflexible application restrictions, applying for too many Wells Fargo cards is not likely to present much of an issue for most folks, as you simply won't be approved for multiple cards or signup bonuses each year.
- Application Frequency – Wells Fargo restricts applicants to one credit card every six months, and although the language is a little vague, from all reports the application restrictions are strictly enforced.
“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.”
- Signup Bonus Restrictions – Again, the Wells Fargo language is a little vague, but you'll only receive one introductory offer on a Wells Fargo credit card product every 15 months, and that includes intro APR offers. If you're looking to bank Wells Fargo signup bonuses, you'll need to stagger your applications and space them out at least 15+ months apart.
“Eligibility for introductory rate(s), fees, and bonus rewards offers. 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.”
Understanding each provider's credit card application rules and restrictions will help you develop a successful long-term rewards travel strategy and ensure you don’t waste hard pulls on cards you aren’t likely to get approved for. Remember, not all these restrictions are hard and fast rules, with a lot of them pulled from community data as opposed to written policies. If you receive conflicting information from providers, we’d love to hear about it.
Again, if you have questions on the information we’ve provided in this post, please get in touch in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to find you an answer.
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