How often should you apply for a credit card?
February 15, 2024 7 min read
Opening a credit card is a personal decision. And when it comes to how often you should apply for a new card, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Learning about how credit applications could affect your credit scores and what to think about before applying for a new card may help you figure out what’s right for you.
- Credit card issuers have their own rules about applications and accounts.
- A new credit card application typically triggers a hard inquiry, which may temporarily lower your credit scores by a few points.
- Many hard inquiries in a short time may have a more significant impact on your scores. That’s why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends applying only for the credit you need.
- Checking for pre-approved card offers before applying for a new credit card may help you narrow down your options and apply more strategically.
How often should you get a new credit card?
The right number of credit cards might be different for everyone. It all depends on your circumstances. But there is some general guidance that may help inform your decision.
The CFPB recommends only applying for the credit you need. And Experian®, one of the three major credit bureaus, recommends avoiding more than one new credit application every six months.
Credit card issuer limits
Credit card issuers may have their own rules about how often you can apply for new credit or open a new account. Here are a few examples:
- The 5/24 rule: For some issuers, applicants can’t open more than five new credit card accounts in a 24-month period.
- The 2/3/4 rule: According to this rule, applicants are limited to two new cards in a 30-day period, three new cards in a 12-month period and four new cards in a 24-month period.
- The six-month or one-year rule: Some issuers may only let borrowers open a new credit card account once every six months or once a year.
Does opening a new credit card affect your credit score?
It’s important to know that different credit-scoring companies, like FICO® and VantageScore®, have their own models for calculating credit scores. And it’s hard to predict exactly how your scores might be affected by any financial decision, including applying for a new credit card.
However, applying for credit can result in a hard inquiry, where a lender requests to review your credit file. The CFPB says that a single hard inquiry generally has a small impact on your credit scores. According to FICO, that impact is typically less than five points. But multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time could have a larger negative impact on your credit scores.
Why? Because, as the CFPB explains, “If you apply for a lot of credit over a short period of time, it may appear to lenders that your economic circumstances have changed negatively.” So before you apply for a new credit card, it’s a good idea to pause and think everything through.
Keep in mind that credit scores are complex. And opening a new credit card can change things like your credit utilization ratio and credit age, which may also impact your scores.
Consider getting pre-approved before applying
Some credit card issuers let you check for pre-approved card offers before you apply. Getting pre-approved can help give you a better idea of what cards you may be eligible for without triggering a hard inquiry.
With Capital One’s pre-approval tool, you can find out if you’re pre-approved for card offers before you apply. Pre-approval is quick and only requires some basic information, like your legal name, address, Social Security number, employment status and income. Plus, getting pre-approved won’t hurt your credit scores.
Considerations before applying for a new credit card
Besides pre-approval, here are some things you might consider doing before applying for a credit card:
Think about timing
The CFPB says you might want to avoid applying for a credit card during or right before applying for a mortgage to avoid multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time.
When you apply for any kind of loan, the lender will likely look at your credit reports and scores as part of determining whether to approve your application and what interest rate to offer you.
Each credit card application might result in a separate hard inquiry, which can impact your credit scores. So you might want to avoid that potential impact on your credit scores while you’re applying for another loan.
Take stock of your current credit card debt
If you’re struggling to manage high-interest credit card debt, you may be considering consolidating your credit card debt. One way to consolidate credit card debt is with a balance transfer to a new issuer.
A balance transfer can help you combine multiple credit card payments into a single monthly payment. Some credit cards even offer low or 0% introductory rates. Just keep in mind that the introductory rate only lasts for a limited time. And depending on the issuer, you might have to pay a balance transfer fee.
It’s also important to know that debt consolidation won’t erase your debt. And a balance transfer is just one option. Working with a credit counselor may help you figure out the best way to manage your debt.
Make sure to take your needs and spending habits into account too. If you want a simple way to earn money on everyday purchases, for example, you may want to look into a cash back rewards card like the Capital One Quicksilver card.
With Quicksilver, you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. If you’re a frequent traveler, a travel rewards credit card like the Capital One Venture card may be a good fit. Venture lets you earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase.
Capital One has a credit card comparison tool that helps you filter cards by credit requirements, rewards type and other factors.
Monitor your credit
It’s a good idea to know where your credit stands, whether you’re thinking about applying for a new card or not. One way to monitor your credit is with CreditWise from Capital One.
CreditWise gives you free access to your TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore 3.0 credit score anytime, without hurting your score. CreditWise is free and available to everyone, even if you don’t have a Capital One account.
You can also get free copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
FAQ about how often to apply for credit cards
Here are a few frequently asked questions to help you better understand how often to apply for a new credit card.
When should I get a credit card?
Opening your first credit card can be part of building or establishing your credit history. And using a credit card responsibly may help you improve your credit scores over time.
But everyone’s situation is different. There isn’t one right time to get a credit card that applies to everyone. Before you apply, make sure to think through things like how you plan to use the credit card and whether you can manage monthly payments.
How long should I wait between applying for credit cards?
According to Experian, you should try to avoid applying for new credit more than once every six months. Each credit card issuer may also have their own rules about how often you can open a new credit card account with them.
How can I keep my credit score as high as possible when applying for a credit card?
Whether you’re applying for a new credit card or not, using the credit you already have responsibly is a key part of maintaining or improving your credit scores. Responsible credit use includes things like paying on time every month and staying well below your credit limit.
Getting pre-approved for card offers before you apply may also help you avoid unnecessary hard inquiries.
How often you should apply for a credit card in a nutshell
The CFPB recommends applying only for the credit you need. But everyone’s financial situation is different. How often you should apply for a credit card depends on your specific circumstances.
If you want to explore card options before you apply, you can compare Capital One credit cards to learn about different cards and find one that’s right for you.