Credit Card Application Restrictions You Need to Know

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Credit card application restrictions have made the Miles and Points hobby a tad more difficult in recent years.

Since credit card sign-up bonuses are the primary way to build your frequent traveler account balances, knowing the application rules and restrictions is vital to any Miles and Points strategy.

Below are the current rules for the major credit card issues.

Unfortunately, these rules can change at any time, so use them as a guide, not as hard and fast rules. We’ll try to update as the credit card application landscape changes.

American Express

You can have five Amex credit cards open at one time. This includes both personal and business credit cards. And, for Amex, there’s an important card distinction of which to be aware. An American Express credit card has a fixed spending limit that allows you to carry a balance – and pay interest – month-to-month.

American Express also offers charge cards, which are usually exempt from the five card limitation. Meaning, you could have five Amex credit cards open and potentially be able to apply and be approved for Amex charge cards. A charge card does not have a fixed spending limit and must be paid-in-full each month. Examples of Amex charge cards are: The Platinum Card and the American Express Gold Card.

You can apply for two cards (one credit and one charge card or two charge cards) in a single day. Don’t be surprised, though, if at least one of the applications is held back for additional consideration to make sure the applications aren’t fraudulent.

You should not apply for more than three Amex cards in a 90-day period.

American Express limits sign-up bonuses to one per card per lifetime. This was a major hit to those in the Miles and Points hobby. There have been some reports that “lifetime” may equate to 7 years when being considered for an Amex sign-up bonus. Which means, if you received the sign-up bonus for a particular Amex card more than 7 years ago, you may be eligible to receive the sign-up bonus for that specific card again. There are no guarantees, though.

Amex personal and business cards are considered different products, even if they’re the same card (i.e. The Platinum Card) for the sake of the once-per-lifetime rule. So you should be able to get the sign-up bonus on a particular card’s personal and business version should you qualify.

Occasionally, Amex will send targeted credit card offers that do not have the once-per-lifetime language associated with them. Usually, these will be sent via email or regular mail to the targeted individual. If the card’s offer terms do not have the language “Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card” then you should be able to receive the sign-up bonus again.

Amex leaves itself an obscure out to deny sign-up bonuses. Additional language in a card’s Offer Terms may keep applicants from receiving sign-up bonuses even though they’ve been approved for the card…and taken the hard pull hit on their credit report. “We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.” Unfortunately, you may not be aware that you won’t get the sign-up bonus until you’ve met the minimum spend and find the bonus points nowhere to be found.


Unlike American Express, Chase doesn’t appear to have a limit on the number of credit cards an individual may have open. Chase does, however, limit based on the amount of credit it has extended. Once an individual has hit Chase’s spending limit for him or her, it is doubtful additional applications will be approved. This limit is typically 50% of an applicant’s reported income and is factored across all – personal and business – open Chase credit cards. Chase, though, is good about letting applicants move existing credit lines around to allow for a new card to be approved. It will take a call to the reconsideration line, and a request that credit from one (or more) existing cards be moved to the desired card, but usually a “no” to a new Chase card application can become a “yes.” Credit cannot, however, be moved between personal and business cards.

Chase and the 5/24 elephant. Like Amex, Chase has made it much more difficult to take advantage of sign-up bonuses as a result of its 5/24 rule. The rule is fairly simple:

If you have opened five or more credit cards with any credit card issuer over the previous 24 months, you will not be approved for most Chase-issued credit cards.

This was a game changer when Chase implemented this rule in 2016. Chase has some of the best co-branded credit cards (Hyatt, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Marriott, etc.), and the best – in my opinion – transferable points program, Chase Ultimate Rewards, of any of the credit card issuers. Instituting the 5/24 rule significantly limited Miles and Points hobbyists’ ability to build loyalty program balances via sign-up bonuses – both from Chase issued cards and other bank issued cards if you wanted to pursue the sign-up bonuses on Chase cards.

Any serious Miles and Points hobbyist must keep the 5/24 rule top of mind when considering his/her credit card application strategy.

You won’t be able to earn a sign-up bonus on a Chase card if you currently hold that card or if you earned a sign-up bonus on that specific card within the last 24 months. You can cancel a card you currently hold, reapply, and receive the sign-up bonus once again, as long as 24 months have passed since you received that card’s sign-up bonus. Remember, it’s 24 months from the date of receiving the bonus, not when you applied, or were approved, for the card the first time.

Chase Sapphire cards (Preferred and Reserve) for the purpose of sign-up bonuses are considered the same card. You won’t be able to get the bonus on the Sapphire Preferred if you currently hold the Sapphire Reserve…and vice versa. Additionally, if you’ve received a sign-up bonus on any Sapphire card within the previous 48 months, you are not eligible to receive the sign-up bonus again. There was a lot of Sapphire card churning going on when the Reserve was introduced, and Chase put the hammer down pretty quickly on that. Now you have to wait 48 months to get a Sapphire sign-up bonus again.

Chase has three personal Southwest Airlines credit cards. As with the Sapphire cards, all three are considered the same for sign-up bonus purposes. If you currently hold one of the Southwest Airlines personal cards, you cannot receive the sign-up bonus for another. Luckily, though, the Southwest cards fall under the 24-month restriction for getting a new sign-up bonus.


Citi does not limit the number of cards you can have open at one time, however, like Chase, it does limit by the amount of credit that has been extended. If you’ve hit your credit limit, calling Citi to move credit from one or more currently open Citi cards may allow for approval.

You can apply for one personal card every 8 days and no more than two in a 65-day period.

You can only apply for one business card every 95 days.

You must wait 24 months from either opening or closing most Citi-issued credit cards to be eligible to receive the sign-up bonus once again.

The Citi Family Rule. The 24-month restriction applies across families of Citi cards, not just individual cards.

Families include:

Personal American Airlines AAdvantage cards including the Executive World Elite Mastercard and the Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card and the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard are not considered part of the AAdvantage family for the sake of sign-up bonuses.

ThankYou Rewards points earning cards including the Citi Rewards+ Card, Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi ThankYou Premier/Citi Premier and the Citi Prestige.

With all that in mind, here’s an example of how that will work in practice. January 2019 you sign up for the Citi Premier card and receive its sign-up bonus. You will not be eligible for a sign-up bonus on any of the other ThankYou Rewards points earning cards until February 2021. If you close your Citi Premier card on its first anniversary – January 2020, you won’t be eligible for a sign-up bonus on any ThankYou Rewards points earning card until February 2022, 24 months after the closing date of the Citi Premier.

In other words, it’s important to remember, the 24-month sign-up bonus clock resets upon the closure of a Citi card. If you want the bonus on a Citi card within the same family as the card you currently hold, it’s best to sign-up after the 24-month period, get the bonus on the other card and then close the card you’ve held for the past 24+months.


No specific limit on the number of cards allowed. Approvals will be based on an overall view of your credit profile. Barclays has been known to be strict about too many recent approvals or open cards when it comes to approving new applications.

An approximately 6-month waiting period is recommended after canceling a card before applying for that same card again.

Barclays also likes to see card usage when considering a new application. If you have a Barclays card which you don’t use, that may negatively affect an application approval on another Barclays card.

Barclays can be a bit stingy with card approvals/sign-up bonuses. If it feels you are gaming the system…which, let’s be honest, Miles and Points hobbyists kind of are…don’t be surprised at an application denial or sign-up bonus restriction. That said, a moderate player shouldn’t be too worried about a Barclays application.

Bank of America

No limit on number of cards.

The 2/3/4 rule.

  • You can only get approved for 2 new cards in a 2-month period.
  • You can only get approved for 3 new cards in a 12-month period.
  • You can only get approved for 4 new cards in a 24-month period.

This only applies to cards issued by Bank of America, BofA does not consider cards issued by other banks in this rule.

Bank of America business credit cards are not included in the 2/3/4 rule.

Reports indicate you can apply, and be approved, for 2 Bank of America cards on the same day. This does not apply to applications for the same card…i.e. you cannot apply for 2 Alaska Airlines cards on the same day.

However, you can get the sign-up bonus for the same card multiple times – the Alaska Airlines card is one many do this with – as long as the 2/3/4 rule is followed.

Capital One

Two personal card limit.

Card approvals are limited to one every 6 months. This applies to both personal and business cards.

While reports indicate you can receive the sign-up bonus multiple times on the same card, Capital One also handles approval/sign-up bonuses similarly to Barclays. They’ll look at an applicant’s whole profile and may deny an application or forego a sign-up bonus for various reasons.

Wrap Up

While a number of the banks listed above have specific rules associated with credit card applications and sign-up bonus earning, the bottom line is any bank can deny any application for any reason.

The key to approvals is keeping your credit profile as “clean” as possible while still taking advantage of all the Miles and Points hobby has to offer.

Which means ensuring your FICO score is as high as possible, your credit utilization rate is as low as possible, your age of accounts is reasonable and your income is sufficient to support your credit line approvals.

And, of course, taking into consideration the bank-specific application restrictions noted above.

Keeping all of these factors in line should result in numerous credit card approvals and significant Miles and Points additions to your various loyalty account balances for years to come.

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