Why Was My Credit Card Application Denied?

 

You’ve done your homework and finally determined the perfect credit card for your situation. After completing the application and hitting submit, the result flashes on your screen: “declined.”

While this result can be discouraging, it’s simply a business decision made by the bank that issues the credit card. Before you apply for another credit card, it’s helpful to understand why you were denied.

Here are some possible reasons why your credit card application was declined.

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1. Your credit scores are too low for the card you applied for

If your application for new credit was declined, it may be that your credit scores don’t fit the requirements for the card you applied for.

Your credit scores are an indication to prospective lenders as to how risky it would be to lend you money. And in general, premium credit cards will have the most stringent credit score requirements:

  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for example, is a luxury travel credit card that requires excellent credit (typically scores of 720 or higher) for approval.

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If your credit report is more seasoned and you’re hoping to earn rewards, head over to our recommended best cards for cash back and travel.

2. You have a history of poor credit management

If you’ve mismanaged previous credit lines, it will likely show up when the credit card company pulls your credit. (This is also known as a “hard inquiry” on your credit.) Examples of red flags that may appear during such an inquiry:

  • Delinquent payments: Payment history is the biggest factor in your credit scores. A delinquent payment of 30 days or more will stay on your credit report for seven years, so do whatever you can to avoid missing a payment.

  • Bankruptcy: A bankruptcy filing shows a current or past inability to pay off debt. If your bankruptcy was recent, your best option will be a secured credit card to help mend your credit. 

  • High debt-to-income ratio: A high debt-to-income ratio can impact your ability to make on-time loan payments. This looks risky to lenders. A lower ratio indicates that you potentially have more cash to pay off debt, which can increase your odds of approval.

3. Your credit history is insufficient

A thin or nonexistent credit profile can create uncertainty with creditors, since there’s no track record of responsible credit management.

If you lack a credit history, your odds of approval will be highest with a credit-builder card. Once you show the lender you can use that card responsibly — paying the bill on time and, ideally, in full each month — then you’ll be more likely to get approved for better credit cards with perks and rewards.

4. You’re too young

Consumers can apply for credit cards starting at age 18, but the law prohibits issuing cards to applicants under 21 unless they have an independent income or a co-signer. This is federally mandated by the Credit Card Act of 2009.

A good way to build credit at a younger age is to become an authorized user on a parent or guardian’s credit card. Assuming that the primary account holder has responsible credit habits, your own credit may benefit — and when you’re ready to apply for a credit card yourself, you’ll have an established credit profile to lean on.

5. You lack sufficient income

Creditors often view part-time workers, students or those with inconsistent incomes as the kind of applicants who might have difficulty repaying debts. That risk can often lead to a denial of credit if you don’t apply for the right type of card.

If you have a low income, consider a secured credit card. This will require a cash deposit to “secure” your credit line, but it will allow you to help your credit profile and potentially earn rewards. Then, if your income and/or scores go up, you’ll be in a better position to upgrade to an unsecured card — and get your deposit back.

6. You have too many recent hard inquiries or new accounts

As noted above, when you apply for a credit card — and for other kinds of loans — the lender will conduct a hard inquiry. These potential creditors typically don’t like to see a large number of previous such inquiries on your credit report over a short period of time, as it may be a signal (to them, at least) that you’re in desperate need.

Relatedly, each approved application for credit results in a new account (aka “tradeline”) that appears on your credit report. If you’ve already received a lot of new credit lately, it can be a red flag for other lenders.

7. You lack a Social Security number or ITIN

Depending on your immigration status, you might not have or be eligible for a Social Security number. This will likely create a roadblock when it comes to credit card approval, since most applications are going to ask for that number.

However, some specific creditors use nontraditional underwriting methods that can lead to an approval without a Social Security number.

8. You don’t have a banking relationship

Some credit card issuers prefer a more robust relationship with their customers before issuing credit to them. This often starts with a deposit account, like a checking or savings account.

Once that relationship is established, your odds of credit card approval may improve.

9. You violated an issuer’s internal rule

Many card issuers have specific internal rules for approving credit card applications. Even if you have good credit, breaking one of these rules can lead to a denial.

For example, Chase has a well-known 5/24 rule, which limits the number of credit cards you can be approved for to five within a two-year (24-month) period. If you go above that frequency, your new application will be automatically declined.

Other issuers, like American Express and Citi, are known to have their own such approval rules. However, these rules are often unofficial, making it hard for the average consumer to know they’re doing anything wrong.

What should you do if your credit card application is denied?

If your card application is declined, your first step should be to figure out why. If the denial is for something on your credit report, the creditor is legally required to send you an adverse action notice under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). That notice will identify the reason(s) for the denial, giving you a chance to fix issues before your next application.

Once you understand the reason for the denial, you can call the issuer’s reconsideration line. This call will give you the opportunity to talk to a human about the application, and it may even include a manual review of your credit report by an analyst with the issuer. This interaction can sometimes turn the denial into an approval.