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Although it may seem like it at the time, a denied credit application isn’t the end of the world. This happens more often than you might think, even to clients who act together. Sometimes there is a mismatch between your creditworthiness and the specific card you have applied for. Other times, there’s a reason you never considered hiding behind your denial.
If you’ve recently been rejected, or think there’s a chance of it happening on an application you’re considering, here’s how to handle it. More importantly, here’s how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Reasons why your application may be rejected
You may have a limited credit history
Although some credit cards approve applicants with a short credit history, many issuers like to see a regular track record before offering approval on their most popular cards. Even if you are a very responsible customer, you may simply not have a long enough credit history to qualify. If so, keep paying your bill on time and making other smart credit choices to keep building (and extending) your credit.
You may have a low credit score
Each credit card has a different threshold for required creditworthiness. Generally speaking, more premium cards require excellent credit, although there is no hard and fast rule.
In some cases, you may see vague references to the level of credit required on application forms. If you see score descriptors, you can use these FICO categories to help you determine if you are a good candidate for this card.
Remember that many factors go into calculating your FICO score. A history of late payments — or not paying your card at all — is a major factor, as is constantly maxing out your cards or having a high usage rate.
You may have too many credit accounts
Another common reason for an application being denied is opening too many new accounts in a short time. Some issuers have explicit rules about how many cards they consider reasonable; a well-known one is the Chase “5/24” rule. This rule discourages customers from applying if they have opened five or more accounts in the past 24 months, as this is often an automatic rejection.
You may have a bad track record with the issuer
If you apply for a new card from an issuer with whom you previously had (or currently have) an account, they will consider your history as a customer in their decision.
Customers who previously closed cards shortly after opening them or customers who request cards and never use them are not very profitable for the bank. And, if the issuer suspects you’re “gaming the system” — earning rewards through manipulation methods — they may temporarily or permanently deny you new cards.
Your income may be too low
Almost all credit card applications require you to state your current income. This is because it is a key consideration in deciding whether or not you will be approved. Card issuers don’t want to support a customer who may be in too much debt relative to their income.
Low income does not necessarily mean your application will be denied, especially if you do not have other loans and a reasonable monthly housing payment. Along the same lines, a high income will not guarantee approval if you have many outstanding financial obligations. The number of existing credit accounts and their associated credit limits are also considered against your income.
If your income has recently increased due to a new job or other changing circumstances, you may have to wait a few months for the card issuer to classify it as stable income.
You may have an error on your credit file
If you think you’re the perfect candidate but were turned down anyway, there may be an error in your credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit report to review and see if anything has been misreported. Examples of errors include accounts incorrectly described as overdue, incorrect balances, or accounts mislabeled as open or closed. Review your credit report carefully and dispute credit report errors if necessary.
What to do to be reconsidered for a card
Here’s your best course of action to get reconsidered for a card you were initially denied.
Step 1: Call the issuer to find out why
Usually, you will receive a letter in the mail a week or two after your application stating why you were denied. In some cases, you may want to call and ask for more details (or to get an explanation sooner). If you didn’t have a direct phone line to call, ask to speak to someone for reconsideration.
Sometimes your rejection may be caused by an error, in which case a quick call may solve the problem; maybe the address on your application doesn’t match the address on your credit report or your name has changed or there was a typo in your reported income. A telephone agent can clarify these things and potentially even re-process your request.
If the reason for your denial is that the card issuer has already extended their maximum credit allowance to you, the reconsideration service may also be willing to work with you by transferring lines of credit from an existing account you hold. to a new map. This only works if you already have an established account with the same issuer and have credit that you are willing to reallocate.
More likely, however, your call will be informative. After speaking with someone for reconsideration, you will at least have an understanding of what was holding you back so you can improve your situation before you reapply (or apply for different cards) in the future.
Step 2: Use your credit report as a resource
A credit report summarizes your credit profile with details of all your accounts (including credit cards and loans), payment history, collection items, and other financial records, including bankruptcies or tax privileges.
A close review of your credit report provides much more detail than the information you will be given on a reconsideration call. For example, instead of just being notified that you’ve missed payments, you can see how many payments you’ve missed, on which dates, and on which cards. These details can help you solve the biggest problems so you know what to focus on first.
As with many things in life, knowledge is power. Taking the time to read your credit report gives you insight into what card issuers assess during the card approval process and makes you a smarter applicant.
Step 3: Improve your creditworthiness
Repairing your credit may seem like an impossible hurdle, but if you take it step by step and commit to lasting change, it’s relatively simple. Your credit report likely provided insight into areas for improvement. Most likely, you’ll want to focus on paying your bills on time, keeping your utilization rate low, and paying off any other existing debt.
Not all cards require great credit, and in some cases you may just need to upgrade from a fair credit score to a good one. Once you’ve improved your credit score, think about which credit cards might offer you the benefits you’re looking for and are a realistic candidate for. You may decide that another card may be acceptable or you may take a few more months until your creditworthiness improves even further.
How long to wait to reapply
Unless your denial was due to a credit report error that has been corrected, patience is key. Card issuers want to see a track record showing that your habits have changed in the long term. Before reapplying, be honest with yourself: have you solved the problem? Is your financial situation significantly different now compared to the first time?
If you can answer yes to both questions, you may be ready to reapply. Some issuers have guidelines on the wait time between requests. When they don’t have well-established policies, a good rule of thumb is to wait six months. This is often long enough to improve your score and show a creditworthy pattern, which will improve your chances of approval.
Not all credit applications are approved instantly, even if you consider yourself a reasonably good candidate. Many factors can impact your approval and a denial can often be a temporary block rather than a permanent rejection. Most rejection reasons are within your control to change, which means a little effort can set you up for success the next time you apply.