Everyone hates rejection. And while a personal rejection stings, having a credit card application rejected can be even worse. Applicants may feel that a card issuer has made a judgment on their entire credit history and found them lacking. In fact, even people with high credit scores can be declined and wonder why.
Thankfully, here are six techniques that you can use to maximize your chances of being approved for the credit cards you want.
1. Maintain a high credit score.
While it may be obvious, your credit score is still the single most important factor that will determine if your application is approved. Although some focus on the nuances of credit scoring formulas, the easiest way to achieve an excellent credit score is to always pay your bills on time and carry very little debt. (You can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com to see where you stand.)
2. Space out your credit applications.
One of the reasons that people with strong credit histories can still be declined for a credit card is when they have too many recent applications for new credit (aka “hard inquiries“). Credit scoring formulas and the card issuers themselves view multiple recent applications for new credit cards as a warning sign of financial trouble. So even though you might just be hoping to earn a generous sign-up bonus and not incur debt, the card issuer may be worried that you are looking to borrow more money than you can afford to pay back.
3. Don’t apply for too many cards from the same issuer.
Just as credit card issuers do not want to approve cards for those who have had too many recent applications, they are also hesitant to approve new credit cards for those with whom they already have many existing accounts. For example, American Express has a policy of only allowing individuals to have four active consumer credit card accounts, and other card issuers have limits that are less defined. So if you already hold several accounts with one card issuer, you are more likely to be approved when you apply for a card from a different institution.
4. Pay down your existing accounts.
An interesting quirk of credit reports occurs when cardholders receive a statement with a large balance. Even when you avoid interest charges by paying off the balance in full and on time every month, many credit card issuers report your statement balance to the credit bureaus. So cardholders who never revolve charges are often surprised to find that their credit report appears to show a balance even though they pay off everything. To reduce this apparent debt, cardholders can pay off some or all of their balance before their statement period closes, especially when they happen to have a large balance.
5. Try reconsideration.
Even when you have been initially declined for a new credit card account, don’t give up. The first rejection was likely the result of an automated process, but you can always call the credit card issuer and ask to have your application be reconsidered by a representative. During that conversation, you can ask the representative to transfer a line of credit from an existing account, or even to close an unneeded account. Doing so will allow the card issuer to offer you a new account without exposing it to any additional risk.
6. Learn why you were rejected.
By law, creditors must offer applicants a reason when they have rejected a new credit application. Typically, they will send a rejection letter that includes one or more reasons — such as too many recent applications for new credit or having a limited credit history. You are also able to request a free copy of your credit report any time your application has been denied. By learning the reason for your denial, you can then take targeted steps to remedy the problem and increase your chance of being approved the next time.
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Note: It's important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
Jason Steele has worked as a computer systems administrator, a commercial pilot, and a contributor to several of the top personal finance sites as an expert on credit cards and travel. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in History. More by Jason Steele