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Can You Cancel a Credit Card Application?

You'll have to move quickly if you want to cancel your application.

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Canceling a credit card application may be helpful if your financial plans change. For example, maybe you applied for a credit card in order to fund a large purchase -- and then decided not to follow through. Maybe you applied for a travel credit card and then decided you would be better off with a cash-back credit card, or maybe you applied for a credit card without realizing it had an annual fee.

No matter why you want to cancel a credit card application, the important thing is to begin the process as quickly as possible. Most credit card issuers process new applications as soon as they are received and it may be difficult to cancel your application if you’ve been instantly approved.

How do you cancel a credit card application?

If you want to cancel a credit card application, you’re probably going to need to contact the credit card company directly. Call customer service, connect with a representative and ask if it is possible to cancel your credit card application. 

Be aware that it may be too late for you to cancel your credit card application. When you apply for a credit card online, for example, your application is usually processed within minutes. Even if you call customer service as soon as you complete the application, you’re unlikely to connect with the representative in time. If you apply for a credit card through the mail, you might be able to call customer service and cancel your application before the credit card company begins to process it.

Does canceling a credit card application affect your credit score?

Attempting to cancel a credit card application is unlikely to help your credit score. In most cases, the credit issuer will have already requested a hard inquiry into your credit before you are able to begin the cancellation process. Since each hard credit check has the potential to lower your credit score by a small number of points, the damage will have already been done. 

If you are able to reach your credit issuer before your application is processed, you may be able to have the credit inquiry removed from your credit report -- but this is unlikely to happen, given the speed at which many credit issuers process new applications.

Canceling a credit card application also prevents you from taking advantage of a new line of credit. This means that you won’t get the credit score boost that you might receive if you are able to use your new credit card to lower your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is based on your available credit vs. your current debt -- and if you use your new credit card responsibly without increasing your total debt load, your credit score could go up.

What happens if you can’t cancel your credit card application?

In most cases, you won’t be able to cancel your credit card application before your credit issuer makes a decision about approval. If your credit issuer denies your application, there’s nothing left for you to do. If you are approved, you have three options:

  • Cancel the credit card. If you don’t want to keep your new credit card, you can always contact your credit issuer and cancel the card. You’ll lose access to the new line of credit, as well as the potential increase in your credit score associated with a decreased credit utilization ratio -- but if you really don’t want the credit card, canceling it could be the bestchoice. 
  • Keep the credit card. You may want to keep the credit card, especially if the increase in available credit has a positive effect on your credit score. If you don’t want to use the card on a regular basis, consider putting one of your monthly subscription payments on the card and setting up credit card autopay to cover the bill. That way, your credit issuer won’t close the account for lack of use.
  • Upgrade or downgrade the credit card. If you applied for a credit card with an annual fee and want to switch to the no-annual-fee version -- or if you applied for a no annual fee credit card and want to take advantage of the rewards opportunities offered by the annual-fee version -- you can always contact your credit card issuer and ask to upgrade or downgrade the card

The bottom line

If you want to cancel a credit card application, you need to act quickly. In most cases, your credit issuer will process your application as soon as it is received -- and if you apply for a new credit card online, you may not have time to cancel the application before the credit card company completes its process and approves or declines your request.

If you can’t cancel your credit card application in time, you can always cancel your new credit card after it is issued. That said, you might decide that the benefits of having a new line of credit outweigh any reasons you might have had to cancel the credit card application.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Nicole Dieker has written about personal finance for nearly a decade. In addition to CNET, her work has appeared on Bankrate,, Vox, Lifehacker, Popular Science, The Penny Hoarder, The Simple Dollar and NBC News. Dieker also spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog.
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