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Applying for credit cards is my main source of earning points and miles. However, you can’t just apply for new credit cards willy-nilly. Each bank has its own set of rules to prevent credit card churning. When deciding which credit card to get next, you’ll need to consider how many credit card applications are allowed within a certain timeframe and how often you can receive the sign-up bonus. Here’s a breakdown of the credit card application rules and restrictions by bank.

American Express

Card Limits

American Express allows cardholders to have four credit cards and ten charge cards at one time (see here). This limit applies to both personal and business cards.

Application Rules

American Express limits credit card approvals to two credit cards every 90 days, but only one credit card in a five-day period. It is possible to apply for two cards from Amex in a day but it has to be one credit card and one charge card. Doing this will generally result in only one hard pull on your credit report.

Welcome Bonus Restrictions

American Express cards may be easier to get approved for, but unfortunately, sign-up bonuses are limited to once per lifetime. You can only get the bonus if you’ve never had the card previously, even if you have never received a sign-up bonus on that card. There are data points suggesting this “lifetime limit” may expire after seven years.

Amex Offer Terms

Summary

Application frequency: Two credit cards every 90 days with only one credit card in a five-day period. This rule does not apply to charge cards.

Maximum number of cards: Four credit cards and 10 charge cards

Sign-up bonus restrictions: Once per lifetime (or possibly every seven years)

Bank of America

Card Limits

Bank of America doesn’t limit the number of cards but rather limits the total credit extended to you.

Application Rules

Bank of America implemented a rule limiting how fast you can apply for new cards. With the 2/3/4 rule, Bank of America will only approve you for a maximum of:

  • Two cards every two months
  • Three cards every 12 months
  • Four cards every 24 months

These time frames are rolling so the clock starts when you are approved for your first Bank of America card. Business cards do not count towards these limits. 

Bank of America also has the following restrictions on personal cards:

  • For Alaska Airlines and Premium Rewards cards: The card will not be available to you if you currently have or have had the card in the preceding 24 month period.
  • For Travel Rewards and Cash Rewards cards: The card will not be available to you if you currently have the card unless you have had that card for at least 24 months.

Welcome Bonus Restrictions

For the most part, Bank of America cards are churnable. However, you will have to wait at least 24 months between bonuses on personal cards.

Summary

Application frequency: Four cards every 24 months with only three new cards per year and two new cards in a two month period

Maximum number of cards: No maximum

Sign-up bonus restrictions: Once every 24 months for personal cards, churnable for business cards

Barclays

Card Limits

There is no limit on the number of Barclays credit cards you can have at one time. Barclays is somewhat strict so it may be difficult to open additional cards once you already opened a few.

Application Rules

Barclays is sensitive to the number of new cards opened in the past six months so you should only apply for one or two Barclaycards every six months.

Barclays implemented a rule for the Barclays Arrival Plus specifically. If you’ve opened five new cards from any bank in the past 24 months, you won’t be approved for the Barclays Arrival Plus.

Welcome Bonus Restrictions

Despite the language in the fine print, Barclays credit cards are churnable. When churning a Barclays credit card, you need to close the card prior to reapplying.

Barlaycard Arrival Plus Fine Print

Summary

Application frequency: One or two credit cards every six months; special restrictions on Barclays Arrival Plus

Maximum number of cards: No maximum

Sign-up bonus restrictions: Churnable

Capital One

Card Limits

You can only have two Capital One-branded personal credit cards at a time. This limit does not apply to co-branded cards or business cards.

Application Rules

In general, you can only be approved for one Capital One credit card (personal or business) every six months. When deciding to apply for a card with Capital One, keep in mind that they pull your credit report from all three credit bureaus which is not ideal!

Welcome Bonus Restrictions

You can get the welcome bonus multiple times.

Summary

Application frequency: One credit card every six months

Maximum number of cards: Two Capital One-branded credit cards

Sign-up bonus restrictions: Churnable

Chase

Card Limits

Chase does not have a limit on how many cards you can have at a time. Instead, Chase limits how much credit they are willing to extend. This number may be about 50-60% of your total annual income. If your application is denied for this reason, you can ask if you can transfer part of a credit line from another card to open the new card. You may also consider lowering your credit limit on existing accounts before applying for a new card.

Application Rules

The main application rule at Chase is the 5/24 rule, which means that you will not be approved if you applied for five or more credit cards from ANY bank in the past two years.

You can only apply for two Chase personal credit cards every 30 days. For business cards, the rule is one card every 30 days. To minimize denials, you should only apply for one or two cards every 90 days. If you are able to get approved for two cards in one day, you may only see one hard inquiry on your report. However, applying for two cards on the same day when you are at 4/24 is unlikely to result in an approval for both.

There are also restrictions on opening credit cards within the same “family”. You can only open one Chase Sapphire card at a time so you will have to pick between Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve. The same rule applies to the three Southwest personal cards (Plus, Premier, and Priority) and the two Marriott cards (Bold and Boundless).

Welcome Bonus Restrictions

You can receive a Chase welcome bonus 24 months after last receiving the bonus. This rule is applied to the family of cards for Southwest and Marriot personal cards. For example, if you got the sign-up bonus on the Southwest Plus less than two years ago, you can’t get the sign-up bonus on the Southwest Priority. This also applies to Chase Sapphire cards, except you won’t be eligible for the bonus on either Chase Sapphire card if you earned the sign-up bonus on a Chase Sapphire card in the past 48 months.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Application

Summary

Application frequency: Two credit cards every 30 days; special restrictions on Chase Sapphire cards, Southwest personal cards, and Marriott cards.

Maximum number of cards: No maximum, limit based on the amount of credit extended to you

Sign-up bonus restrictions: Every 24 months (48 months for Chase Sapphire)

Citi

Card Limits

Citi doesn’t limit the number of cards, but limits the total credit extended to you. It’s possible to lower credit limits or move credit to open a new card.

Application Rules

Citi has the following application rules in place:

  • One personal card every eight days and no more than two every 65 days
  • One business card every 95 days

These rules seemed to be based on applications rather than opened accounts so even if you are denied, the application still counts to the limits above.

Citi is inquiry sensitive and you may not be approved if your credit report has six inquiries over the last six months. Citi’s 6/6 rule is not as clear cut as Chase’s 5/24, but it is something to be mindful of.

Welcome Bonus Restrictions

For American Airlines cards, you can earn the welcome bonus on each card once every 48 months. Cards that earn ThankYou points (Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi ThankYou Premier, and Citi Prestige) follow a different rule. You cannot earn the welcome bonus on these cards if you received a welcome bonus on any of these cards OR if you closed any of these cards in the past 24 months.

Summary

Application frequency: One personal credit card every eight days with only two total every 65 days; one business card every 95 days

Maximum number of cards: No maximum, limit based on the amount of credit extended to you

Sign-up bonus restrictions: One bonus per ThankYou card every 24 months; one bonus every 48 months for each American Airlines card

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5 thoughts on “Credit Card Application Rules and Restrictions by Bank”

  1. That a pretty amazing summary, you have done the heavy lifting, we just need to follow the rules. Thank you for that.

  2. Nice reference. On the Citi American cards you say that you can only get the welcome bonus every 48 months for each card. Does that mean you can get the bonus on each type of personal card or just one bonus per personal card and another for the business card?

    1. Thank you! This rule is specific to the individual card so you should be able to get each of the personal cards as well as the business card. For example, if you apply for the Citi AA Platinum Select, you would still be eligible to apply for the Citi AA Executive card.

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