Does applying for a credit card hurt your credit?

When someone applies for a new credit card, their credit scores might temporarily drop. Hard credit checks, which happen when lenders review a person’s credit history, are a big reason why.

Learn more about why credit scores can be affected when applying for a credit card. Also explore strategies to help minimize the effect.

Key takeaways

  • New credit card applications typically result in a hard credit check, which may temporarily lower your credit scores. 
  • You might also see a dip in your scores when you open a new credit card, which can lower the average age of your accounts.
  • Pre-approval can give you a better idea of how likely you are to get approved for a card before you apply.
  • Comparing cards based on your credit profile can help you avoid submitting multiple applications and apply only for cards that are a good fit.

See if you’re pre-approved

Check for pre-approval offers with no risk to your credit score.

Get started

How do credit card applications affect your credit scores?

In general, your credit scores may temporarily drop after you’ve applied for a credit card. Your scores may drop after you’ve opened a new credit card account as well. But small changes in your scores are normal since the information in your credit reports is updated regularly. 

Keep in mind that credit scores rely on many factors. For example, they might be different depending on which credit-scoring company calculated them and which scoring model was used.

Here are key reasons why your scores may drop after you’ve applied for a card or opened a new card:

Hard inquiries

Applying for a credit card typically involves a hard inquiry, also known as a hard credit check. That happens when a lender looks at your credit reports after you’ve applied for a new credit account. 

Hard credit checks typically impact your credit scores by lowering them on a temporary basis. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains: “These inquiries will impact your credit score because most credit scoring models look at how recently and how frequently you apply for credit.”

Credit history

Opening a new credit card could impact your credit scores by affecting your credit history, which is a record of your accounts and how long you’ve had them. That’s because it can lower the average age of all your accounts as well as the age of your newest account. 

According to Experian, one of the 3 major credit bureaus, “The age of your credit accounts and length of your credit history can directly impact your credit scores.”

But it may help to know that a reduced average account age can impact people’s credit differently. For example, someone with a strong credit history may not be as affected as someone who’s working to establish credit for the first time. 

What to consider before submitting a credit card application

There’s no way to ensure that your credit scores won’t be affected when you apply for a credit card. But there are things you can do to help prepare yourself and avoid unnecessary hard inquiries:

  • Get familiar with your credit profile. Check your credit scores and reports before applying for a credit card to better understand your credit situation. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for information on getting free copies of your credit reports from the 3 major credit bureaus. You can also use CreditWise from Capital One. It’s a free credit monitoring service that won’t impact your credit scores.
  • Compare credit cards. Doing some research to narrow your options to cards that best fit your credit profile, spending habits and financial goals can help you avoid submitting multiple applications, which could result in unnecessary credit checks.
  • Get pre-approved for a card. With pre-approval, you can get a better idea of how likely you are to get approved for a card, typically without damaging your credit scores. Pre-approval and pre-qualification offers don’t guarantee approval. But if they involve a soft credit check, they won’t affect your credit. 
  • Only apply for the credit you need. Limiting your applications for new credit cards, especially in a short time frame, may help reduce the impact on your credit scores. 

Keep in mind that these strategies could help minimize the impact of credit inquiries. But responsible credit card use is also important when you’re working to achieve or maintain good credit scores. Responsible use can include things like staying below your credit limit, making on-time payments and maintaining a healthy credit utilization ratio.

Credit card application impact FAQ

If you still have questions about how your next credit card application could impact your credit, check out these frequently asked questions:

Typically, the credit card pre-approval process doesn’t affect a person’s credit scores. For example, pre-approval at Capital One uses soft credit checks, which involve a simple review of credit and don’t affect scores.

Yes, opening a new credit card can affect your credit scores temporarily. The good news is that responsible use of a new card may help increase your credit scores over time. 

If your credit card application is denied, it alone typically won’t affect your credit scores. But any hard inquiries from the application process could.

The impact of credit card applications on your credit in a nutshell

Applying for a credit card may lead to a temporary reduction in your credit scores. But there are ways to prepare and avoid unnecessary inquiries. They include comparing credit cards, getting pre-approved, only applying for the credit you need and using your new card responsibly. 

Already confident in your credit card research and ready to apply? See if you’re pre-approved for a Capital One credit card with no impact on your credit score. 

Related Content