Here’s Why It’s Harder To Get Approved for Some Credit Cards

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Not all credit cards are created equal. Some offer more exclusive perks and higher spending limits than others. These credit cards can be more difficult to obtain for the average cardholder. The answer as to why some credit card institutions are stingier with their cards comes down to one deceptively simple concept: risk. 

“Each creditor has its own level of risk it’s willing to take when approving consumers,” said Todd Christensen, author of Everyday Money for Everyday People and an AFCPE-Accredited financial counselor. “If they’re willing to take a higher risk, they will approve consumers with lower credit scores. If they want to take fewer risks, they will require higher credit scores for approval.”

And it’s not just a creditor-level issue. 

“Many creditors have credit cards whose risk tolerance varies,” Christensen said. “That way, the creditor can offer a wide range of products to meet consumer demands. They might offer a low-risk credit card for high credit score consumers that comes with more rewards and lower interest rates than their high-risk credit card for low credit score consumers.”

Earn More Perks From Your Credit Card

Though credit score is a high indicator of risk, it’s not the only factor that card issuers consider when reviewing card applicants.

Follow: 19 Ways To Tackle Your Budget and Manage Your Debt
Check Out: 10 Credit Cards To Consider for Travel Rewards

Income Level And Profession Factor In

Aside from credit score, acceptance factors also extend into income level and trade work/occupation reputation throughout the industry,” said Jordan Bishop, founder and CEO of Yore Oyster, a site that helps you optimize your finances while living an international life. “That might include what kind of car you drive or where credit has been extended in your name. The more reputable your name is in the credit industry, the more likely — or harder — it will be for someone to be accepted for a credit card.”

Find Out: Why It’s Still Better To Use Your Credit Card Over Your Debit Card 

Too Many Credit Cards Can Be A Problem

Having too many credit card accounts in your name could signal a red flag to lenders. 

“There isn’t a magic number for any credit card company regarding how many other cards are acceptable and how many aren’t, but they will factor the number of cards you hold into their ultimate decision,” said John Li, co-founder and CTO of the financial lending company Fig Loans.

Earn More Perks From Your Credit Card

“If you have your sights set on your ideal credit card and think the number of cards you have is getting in your way, it may be time to close one of your card accounts,” Li said.

“People are a little hesitant to close their credit cards out because having less available credit will increase your utilization ratio and may temporarily drop your score, but sometimes, it’s worth it. If you’re an otherwise fantastic candidate for a new credit card, you may want to drop an account.”

Helpful: 13 Credit Cards That Every 30-Something Should Consider

Steeper Fees Are A Barrier

Additionally, some credit cards are harder to get simply because they have higher fees, ruling out applicants with lesser cash flow. Especially those that offer more rewards. 

“Some cards are harder to get approved for because of the hefty signing bonuses that they offer,” said Chloe Choe, owner of the personal finance blog Off Hour Hustle

Even in the case of steeper fees, having too many credit cards can negatively impact your chances of being eligible to sign on.  

“Chase in particular is widely known to have the 5/24 rule, which means that you can’t have opened five credit cards in the past 24 months or they will automatically reject your application. You can increase your odds for approval of the high signing bonus cards by spacing out your applications to credit cards.”

See: What Happens When You Get Denied for a Credit Card — And What To Do Next

Tips For Getting Approved For More Exclusive Credit Cards

Laura Adams, MBA, a personal finance expert at Finder, provided some practical tips for consumers looking to snag a credit card with a higher bar to entry. Here’s what she recommends: 

  • Review credit reports to look for errors that may be dragging down your credit scores without you knowing.
  • Apply for a secured credit card that reports payment history to the nationwide credit bureaus to boost your credit scores.
  • Set alerts to make sure you never miss a payment due date on your bills, which can significantly hurt your credit.
  • Improve your credit scores by maintaining balances that don’t exceed approximately 30% of your available credit limits. 
  • Include all your household income — such as employment, self-employment, scholarships, Social Security, and gifts — for you and a spouse or partner on a card application.

Bishop added a few more tips to increase your odds: 

  • Never apply for more than two credit cards at one time. Wait six months to a year in between applying for one card to the other. Otherwise, it will hurt your credit score.
  • Have a good credit score and check online for the score range the specific card you want is asking for. Knowing beforehand can let you know whether you will most likely get approved or not.
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Last updated: Oct. 19, 2021

About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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