Applying for multiple credit cards simultaneously can blemish your credit and temporarily lower your credit score. As such, it’s important to weigh the tradeoffs between responding to all of the credit card offers that may land in your mailbox and maintaining good credit hygiene, especially if you intend to apply for a loan or mortgage in the near term. Though you might be able to apply for one or two cards from different banks in the same time period without sustaining too much damage to your credit, it will be difficult to get approved for multiple cards from one issuer in the space of a few months. Read on to learn the pitfalls of applying for too many credit cards in a short amount of time.
How long should you wait between credit card applications?
If you’re eager to get a new credit card, you may be tempted to apply for several cards at once to increase your chances of getting approved. But don’t get too enthusiastic: Applying for multiple credit cards in a short time frame can damage your credit score.
It’s best to wait at least 90 days -- and preferably six months -- between credit card applications. Applying more frequently than that may cause issuers to see you as a riskier bet and reject your application. While you wait, you can still improve your credit score and increase your chances of getting approved for your new card. You may be able to get away with applying more frequently if you have excellent credit.
How applying for credit cards can damage your credit score
Applying for a credit card will trigger a hard inquiry on your credit profile. This means that each time you apply for a credit card, the bank will check your credit report with one of the three major credit bureaus, and the bureaus will make a note of the inquiry.
A single application may shave only a few points off your score, but multiple applications for cards in a short span could suggest you are a riskier borrower than someone who applies less often.
Applying for credit cards can affect your credit score in a few other ways.
If you have a short credit history or a small number of accounts, a new application can represent more risk for the card issuer. However, getting a new unused credit limit may help decrease your credit utilization ratio -- the amount of your aggregate credit limit being used -- which can in turn help improve your credit score.
You can check if you’re preapproved for a credit card to evaluate the odds of getting approved without damage to your credit score.
Ultimately, there are many combinations of scenarios that can result in different effects for your credit score depending on your past financial behavior -- and not all credit bureaus measure your credit score in the same way.
What’s the best time to apply for a new credit card?
If you want to save money on interest, look for a card that offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases. You can likewise use balance transfer credit cards to help you avoid interest charges and pay off debt.
If you are looking to build or repair your credit, a new account can help. But if you have a short credit history or have recently applied for another card, there’s a chance your application could be denied.
The bottom line
When you apply for a new credit card, the best time to do it typically depends on your financial situation and your credit position. You can take advantage of credit card preapproval to see your odds. Otherwise, you’ll have to evaluate your personal financial position and goals to determine if it’s worth taking the ding to your credit score for multiple credit cards applications.
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