Why Aren’t Credit Cards Instantly Approved?

It seems everyone wants things instantly, including approval for their newly applied for credit cards. But we aren’t always told right away if we’ve been approved or not, even if it’s a so-called pre-approved offer.

While it’s frustrating not to receive the “Congratulations!” e-mail in your inbox within seconds of applying for a credit card, there are reasons why credit card issuers sometimes send the dreaded “Thanks for your application.” one instead.

Reasons You Weren’t Instantly Approved for a Credit Card

[badlist]

  • Applied for too many credit cards recently
  • Have lots of open credit cards
  • Have too much credit with specific card issuer
  • Have too much outstanding credit card debt
  • Recently changed jobs
  • Recently moved
  • New or undefined business (if biz card application)

[/badlist]

There are many reasons why you might not get approved instantly for a credit card, some of which I’ve listed above.

Let’s talk about a few of them to understand why. If you’ve applied for a lot of credit cards lately, but still have an excellent 800 credit score, the issuer may not approve you right away.

You’ll either have to wait the 7-10 business days for a response, or call them immediately via the reconsideration line.

Tip: Each credit card issuer has a reconsideration phone number. Use Google to find the one you need if applicable.

Anyway, you might have to explain why you want yet another credit card if you already have a bunch. I had to do this with my Discover it Miles card because I already had the regular Discover it card.

Along those same lines, you might not get instantly approved if you already have the max credit limit with the issuer. A given credit card company will only provide a certain amount of aggregate credit.

For example, say Chase will only provide you with $40,000 in total credit, but you already have three Chase cards totaling that amount.

If you apply for a fourth Chase card, you might not be instantly approved because you’ve reached the max credit limit they’re willing to dole out.

Instead of simply giving up, you can ask that they move some of your existing credit line to the newly applied for credit card. So if an existing Chase card has a $25,000 credit limit and you barely use any of it, ask for $10,000 to go to the new card.

Who Are You, They Wonder?

You might not be approved instantly with an issuer you’ve never done business with because of credit cards you have open with other banks.

To get around this, you may have to call and speak to the issuer and explain why you want their card (so bad). Usually it just requires a friendly and professional phone call to explain yourself and you’ll be on your way.

I remember shortly after I purchased a new house I applied for a credit card and didn’t get instantly approved. I was annoyed because I wanted to meet minimum spend with new furnishings and other stuff I knew would be necessary to adorn my new digs.

The issue that time had to do with the address change – my credit report didn’t have any information regarding the new address so I had to explain myself to gain the approval.

You could also encounter this type of delayed approval if you were recently hired at a new company and it shows up on your credit report, or if it doesn’t. The issuer will want to get the facts straight to determine an appropriate credit line.

When it comes to business credit cards, it’s very common not to get instantly approved, often because individuals either get a card for their own self-employed company, or because their business credit isn’t established.

Don’t be surprised if you have to call the reconsideration line to explain your business. Be prepared to answer questions such as what exactly your business is and does, how long it’s been established, and how much it makes.

Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand

At the end of the day, an instant credit card approval is clearly ideal but often it just takes a single quick phone call to get approved. Sure, it may not be instant, but it’s still same day approval.

So don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen for you. Know what action(s) to take and don’t just sit around waiting for a denial letter to show up at your door.

Find the appropriate reconsideration phone number and call immediately after receiving the not-so-encouraging “Thank you.” e-mail.

Often it just takes some clarification on your part to turn a suspended application into an approved one. And you may never know what could have been if you don’t take the time to plead your case.

Just sitting around and hoping probably won’t get the job done. It’ll also mean less time to meet minimum spend if you delay your application any more than it needs to be.

Tip: Sometimes you just won’t get approved and there’s no way around it. The Chase 5/24 rule is very rigid and difficult to circumvent.

Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Are Utter Nonsense

So you got a letter in the mail saying you were “pre-approved for a credit card.” Or an e-mail inviting you to apply for the latest credit card.

You jump at the chance to get approved for a credit card and apply immediately assuming you’ll be given the thumbs up in a matter of seconds. But after filling out the online application form you see the dreaded “Thanks, we’ll let you know…” page.

What went wrong? After all, you were pre-approved and “invited,” so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be instantly approved, right?

Why do they need more time? They already said you were approved so what gives?

Pre-Approved Does Not Equal Approved

Well, the truth is, pre-approved does not mean approved. Otherwise it would just say approved wouldn’t it?

What credit card issuers mean by “pre-approved” is that based on the information they have at the time of sending you the invitation, you should be approved for their credit card.

Unfortunately, the information they have may not be all-encompassing or totally current, especially depending on when they got the info and when you subsequently apply.

A credit score (and credit report) is a moving target that can change from day to day based on all sorts of stuff.

Once you apply for the credit card in question, the card issuer will still pull your credit and it will result in a hard inquiry.

From there they’ll be able to see if you still have the excellent credit they were expecting you to have, or the excellent credit you had when they bought your info from the credit reporting bureaus.

If you don’t for any reason, you might not actually get approved. You’re still pre-approved though…if that’s any consolation…it’s not, I just felt like being cheeky.

What Went Wrong?

Well, there are a number of things that can happen between the time credit card issuers get your info and you apply for one of their offers.

Perhaps you missed a credit card payment or ran up a bunch of debt. Or, maybe you applied for too many credit cards in a short span of time. That new 5/24 rule from Chase is a perfect example of how pre-approved can be utter nonsense.

I will use my own personal story to illustrate. I recently applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred after receiving an e-mail from Chase inviting me to apply.

I knew I had opened 5+ credit cards in the past 24 months, so I assumed I’d get rejected. But I wanted to test it just to be sure. I don’t really care about the inquiry. My credit scores are just fine.

Unsurprisingly, I was rejected. I got that annoying screen saying they’d let me know, and an equally annoying e-mail from Chase thanking me for submitting an application. Way to let me down easy…

Ultimately I knew my application was DOA because of their new rule regarding too many accounts opened in recent history.

To test the rule even further, I went to a Chase branch and spoke to a banker I know fairly well there. She tried to push my application through using a special consideration form.

This form basically highlights your other accounts with Chase in hope of garnering approval as an existing, valued customer.

Rejected Three Times!

I knew it was a shot in the dark and it did turn out to be a waste of time, other than creating content for this post. I essentially got rejected a second time in-person and was put on the phone with a Chase rep who wanted to tell me so a third time.

I asked why I was rejected (I knew, but I still love to ask) and was told I had opened too many accounts. I prodded further, asking how many was too many.

There was a moment of silence, then the rep asked if he could put me on hold. I said something to the effect of, “Why do you need to put me on hold? How many is too many?”

He hesitated, then reluctantly (but quickly) told me five was probably the magic number. I already knew this, but it’s always nice to hear it uttered.

I followed with something like, “But you guys sent me an e-mail telling me to apply.” And he said something like, “Yes, but we didn’t know the contents of your credit report. And now that we do, we can’t approve your application.”

So there you have it folks. Even if you are “pre-approved” you may well get rejected. Don’t be surprised if you do.

To avoid such surprises, check your credit report before applying (you can do this for free now using services like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame).

I believe in August a couple of credit cards will be older than 24 months and I should get approved for Chase Sapphire Preferred. Looking forward to trying again…

How to Get Your Credit Card Annual Fee Refunded

There are plenty of folks out there who are down on credit cards, and even more who are down on credit cards with annual fees, for obvious reasons.

But one perhaps lesser known fact about credit card annual fees is that they’re often refundable.

Like other fees you might pay in advance, such as insurance or a cable bill, you can get a prorated refund if you cancel or downgrade your credit card before the year is up.

So take the Citi Prestige card for example. It has a hefty $450 annual fee, which is a big turnoff for a lot of people. The good news is that you get a healthy sign-up bonus and $250 in airline credits each calendar year.

In practice, you can get a ton of value out of this card and more than offset the annual fee.

You Can Come Out Way Ahead

Say you open the card late in the year, maybe October. You spend the required amount to hit the sign-up bonus and buy $250 in airline gift cards, which is quickly refunded by way of statement credit.

The $450 annual fee is charged during your second statement and must be paid in full to avoid any finance charges.

Still, you’re only down $200 at that point because you took advantage of the $250 airline credit. Fast forward to January and you get another $250 airline credit. If you use it, you’re now $50 in the black.

But it can get even better if you cancel the card well before the year is up. If you cancel before your anniversary rolls around, you’re looking at some portion of that $450 back in the form of a check when you close your account.

Obviously, the faster you cancel, the larger the amount of the refund. However, Citi may also frown upon you canceling the card right away after grabbing statement credits for airfare and TSA Pre.

You’ll also want to make sure that you get your ThankYou Points out of there before canceling the card, and get the account balance down to zero to avoid any hiccups along the way.

The takeaway here is that the annual fee may not be as high as advertised if you don’t actually keep the credit card a full year.

Annual Fee Refunds Vary by Issuer (and Maybe Even by Card)

Just note that credit card annual fee refunds vary by card issuer, and they may in fact even vary from card to card.

Most credit card issuers will issue you a full refund if you cancel the credit card within 30 days (one statement period) from the date the annual fee posts.

So even if you goof and forget to cancel the card in time, you generally have some sort of grace period to cancel the card and get the annual fee reimbursed in full.

Some issuers, such as Barclaycard and Chase, may give you a full 60 days to get the annual fee reimbursed.

Once you’ve gone beyond that time period, you might get an annual fee refund on a prorated basis, as I already addressed above. As noted, the quicker you close the higher the refund.

Ways to Get the Credit Card Annual Fee Refunded (In Full or Partially)

[checklist]

  • Cancel the card before the annual fee is due
  • Cancel the card during the grace period (30-60 days after annual fee fee posts)
  • Cancel the card before a year passes and receive a prorated refund
  • Downgrade the card to a no annual fee version
  • Ask for the annual fee to be waived

[/checklist]

How to Increase Your Discover Credit Limit in 30 Seconds

Discover is quickly becoming the most beloved credit card issuer out there because they’re so customer friendly. The ability to redeem any amount of cash back is awesome and unmatched!

However, they also tend to be one of the most conservative credit card companies in terms of doling out credit card limits.

For example, when I applied for the Discover it Miles card last year to take advantage of the Apple Pay promo and the double miles the first year deal, I only received a $5,000 credit line.

Typically, I receive a credit limit north of $20,000 on my newly opened credit cards so it was a bit disappointing to receive a limit this low. It was also entirely expected.

I wasn’t at all surprised because I knew Discover had a reputation for delivering low credit card limits. But it was semi-annoying in that I had to pay down my balance mid-statement to free up credit while going after that promo.

I did still get the job done and walked away with about $1,600, but Discover didn’t make my life any easier with their paltry credit limit.

How to Increase Your Discover Credit Limit

credit line increase

The good news is that this issue can be easily fixed in a matter of seconds, literally.

To increase your Discover credit card limit, simply log on to the Discover website and hover over “Account” on the top menu then click on “Credit Line Increase.”

You’ll be directed to the page above where you simply need to enter your total annual gross income, your employer name (self if you’re self-employed), and your monthly housing or rental payment.

Once you fill in those fairly straightforward responses, you simply hit submit and within seconds your credit limit is increased.

complete

I did this today and increased my credit limit from $5,000 to $8,000. Still pretty low overall, but I never get close to using my limit and it’s still a 60% increase. For the record, they don’t let you choose an amount.

If you’re looking to boost their credit score in a hurry, this credit line increase should certainly help, especially if you’ve got a balance on your Discover card.

It will help your credit utilization, which could be quite high seeing that Discover credit limits are so low. And as mentioned, it literally takes less than a minute to do it.

I actually increased my regular Discover it card as well and it took me less than 30 seconds from start to finish. Yes, I timed it to be sure.

So if you have multiple Discover cards you are able to increase the credit limits on both in the same day. Just be consistent in your answers to ensure a smooth process.

And don’t expect a giant increase; similar to the opening credit limits, the increases are pretty conservative as well. But it’s better than nothing!

Lastly, because these cards carry no annual fee, they can stay in your wallet for as long as you’d like, building positive credit history over time and helping to keep utilization ratios down.

How to Find Hidden Citi Credit Card Cash Back Offers

So Citi finally started offering cash back deals with select merchants you may visit, but they sure aren’t making them easy to find.

For example, those with an American Express card know where to find Amex Offers. They’re right there on the main page when you log in to your credit card management page.

The same goes for Bank of America users. There are easily accessible cash back offers you can load to your BankAmericard to save 10% or more at places like Starbucks, AT&T, Bristol Farms, Red Robin, etc.

I use the Bank of America cash back deals all the time…in fact, it’s probably the only reason I use the card to begin with since I earn more cash back with other cards I carry. So it’s a good thing they make their deals easy to find.

Citi Smart Savings Deals

citi smart savings

Now let’s talk about Citi and their seemingly impossible to find “Citi Smart Savings” offers.

Once you log in to the Citi credit card website you won’t see anything about any cash back offers. Instead, you’ll see your credit card(s) listed, the balance(s), minimum payment(s), etc.

You’ll also see your ThankYou Points balance off to the right. That’s great but where are the cash back offers?

Well, if you scroll down below the fold (depending on screen size and number of Citi cards you have open), you’ll see a section titled, “Get the Most From Your Cards.”

If you click on “View More Offers” from within this section, you’ll be taken to the Citi Smart Savings area of the site, as pictured above in the screenshot.

From there you can add targeted cash back offers to your Citi credit card(s) similar to the offers at Amex and Bank of America.

I currently have Citi cash back offers for Red Robin, Five Guys, Panera, and some other spots tied to my Citi ThankYou Premier card. They’re all 10% cash back. Obviously these offers make your Citi card(s) much more attractive if you already shop at the merchants listed. It’s pretty hard to beat 10% cash back.

By the way, if you don’t see the Get the Most From Your Cards section on the landing page once you log in at Citi, you can also find the Citi Smart Savings by clicking on “Card Benefits” on the menu at the top of the page.

Once you click that you have to scroll down and click on “Offers For You” on the right sidebar. That link will take you to same place, the Citi Smart Savings dashboard. I don’t know why they make them so hard to find?

Get Savings via the Citi Mobile App Too!

If you’re using the Citi mobile app, they’ve now added an “Offers for You” link at the top of the screen once you’re logged on.

It’s a lot more straightforward than the website but wasn’t visible until recently. You’ll see the same cash back offers there, but they’ll also tell you how far they are from your current location and allow you to map them.

So if you’ve got a 10% cash back offer for Panera and want to use it, it’ll show you the nearest one relative to your present location.

It took Citi a little bit longer than others in the industry to get these commonplace cash back offers going, and they’re still doing a decent job hiding them, but they’ll likely make them a lot more visible over time.

I Netted About $1,600 with Discover and Apple Pay

When the Apple Pay and Discover promotion first surfaced I got super excited. It was a chance to earn 23% cash back on virtually all shopping for a limited time.

If you don’t remember or happened to miss it, the deal was basically 10% cash back or 10 miles per dollar spent when you used a Discover it card via Apple Pay in physical stores.

To make the deal much sweeter, Discover offered to double your cash back or miles the first year, assuming you were a new cardholder.

Since I already had Discover it, I applied for Discover it Miles, which incidentally offers 1.5 miles per dollar spent, meaning once you add the 10 bonus miles and double it, it equates to 23% cash back.

$800 Times Two

While there was plenty of controversy over the promo, mainly because Discover changed the terms shortly after launch by explicitly excluding gift cards, many folks were still able to cash in.

There was a limit of $10,000 in spending, and because the promo only lasted about three months, it was difficult to fully exploit it. Oh, and did I mention Discover credit limits are painfully low?

All in all, I was able to spend about $7,000 via Apple Pay. I may have been able to spend more, but two things held me back.

One, I didn’t buy a new iPhone 6s until October when my 24-month contract clock reset. And two, my credit limit was low so I had to keep paying it off and wait for it to refresh, which happened to take several days. In the end, I was fine with what I spent.

I purchased a laptop and a desktop Mac from the Apple Store, along with lots of food from Trader Joe’s, plenty of gasoline, and hit various other purchases along the way where Apple Pay was accepted. Some restaurants I regularly dine at had Apple Pay.

My wife also got a new laptop with her own Discover it card, and I made some purchases with her card on my own phone (she didn’t have a compatible phone so she wasn’t able to maximize this offer).

Out of an abundance of caution, I avoided the gift card game because I didn’t want to deal with a dispute to get my miles/cash back. And I actually needed new computers and the food and gas, so it wasn’t mindless or unnecessary spending.

Now the beauty of all this is that the ~$800 or so I already earned will double in a year. I already received $800 and direct deposited it to my checking account.

In 12 months, I’ll get another $800 that I can deposit into my account, meaning I’ll walk away with some $1,600. If you factor in other purchases made on the card, that effectively earn 3% cash back for the first year, I may wind up with around $2,000 in cash back.

That’s pretty good considering I didn’t need to do much nor alter my normal spending much. Sure, I had to buy a new iPhone, but I needed that too. And it was subsidized by AT&T.

The real savvy players coupled this promo with the AT&T Access More Card from Citi to snag a free phone and take advantage of 23% cash back. I couldn’t be bothered with all that, but I’m still happy with my haul.

How’d you do? We’re you able to earn the maximum $1,150, which doubles to $2,300? Or in the case of the regular Discover it card, $1,100, which doubles to $2,200.

Remember, the double cash back applies for the first year so you may still want to use your Discover card, especially if you can double the portal bonuses and the quarterly bonuses with the standard Discover it card.

My Credit Score Got Pummeled

dropped

Oh, one last thing I wanted to mention. As a result of this promo, my credit score took a huge hit, per data from Credit Karma.

I had a $5,000 credit limit on my Discover card and was up to $4,850, using roughly 97% of my total available credit.

That sent my credit score down about 50 points, from excellent territory to just very good territory.

Now this doesn’t matter because I’m not applying for any new credit in the near future. But for those who were/are, it could present a problem, at least in the near-term.

Of course, I expect my score to jump back to where it was once the credit bureaus see that I paid my high balance back down to zero.

I’ve never really maxed out a credit card before so it was interesting to see the high impact. Had Discover just given me a decent credit limit this wouldn’t have happened. Yet another reason to ask for a higher limit folks…

Can You Can Add Someone as an Authorized User Who Already Has the Same Credit Card?

There are a variety of reasons why a credit cardholder would want to add an authorized user.

For some, it’s a means to a better credit score thanks to the piggybacking that takes place if the person authorizing the user has good credit.

For others, an authorized user could open the door to more cash back rewards if their significant other uses the card. My wife is an authorized user on my Old Blue Cash Amex because it earns 5% back on gas, groceries, and at drugstores.

Obviously I don’t want to have to be there all the time for her to earn 5% at the pump, or 5% while shopping at the grocery store. Essentially our cash back earnings get multiplied by her having access via the authorized user account.

Yet another reason to add an authorized user is for things like Amex Offers, where you can earn cash back savings for buying certain stuff.

Before our wedding, I signed up all of our authorized user accounts to that awesome Smart and Final deal where you received $25 back for spending $50. Most people just bought gift cards.

For us, it meant nearly all of our booze for the wedding was half price. We had about ~10 cards that we were able to load the offer to so it paid major dividends.

Get Bonus Points for Adding an Authorized User

That brings us to the final reason (that I will mention in this post) to add an authorized user. Many credit card companies, especially Chase, will offer a bonus if you add an authorized user to your new card account within a specified period of time.

For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points if you add an authorized user within three months of account opening and make a single purchase.

So on top of whatever bonus you get for opening the card yourself, you can snag another 5k points for simply getting a card for your spouse or sibling and making any small purchase.

Those 5k points can certainly come in handy if you need them while transferring points to a frequent flyer program. They’re also worth $50 if you redeem them for cash. So it’s pretty much a no-brainer.

But suppose your spouse/sibling already has the Chase Sapphire card. Can you still make them an authorized user on YOUR Chase Sapphire card and earn the 5k bonus?

The answer is yes. The idea being that authorized and primary cardholders are different and both may add their own value to the individual user and card issuer. After all, two people with one card means a greater chance of spending.

Get the Opening Bonus Despite Being an Authorized User

Additionally, someone who is an authorized user but never primary should also be able to get the bigger opening bonus if they were to apply for a primary card for the first time as well.

So if someone were only an authorized user on a Chase Sapphire card, but later wanted their own card, again, because they may want to control their own account for whatever reason, they should be treated as a new cardmember and entitled to the opening bonus.

Between two people, they should be able to earn nearly 120,000 UR points if they both add one another as authorized users and meet minimum spend when the 50k offer is in effect.

It breaks down as:

  • 50k bonus for spending $4k (x2) = 108,000
  • 5k for adding authorized user (x2) = 10,000
  • *5k for referring that person = 5,000
  • 118k-123k Ultimate Rewards points

You could potentially earn 123,000 points together if one person refers the other and gets another 5,000 bonus points. That 123,000 points would be good for $1,230 in cash or a whole lot of free travel.

Note: Just be careful of the 5/24 rule that applies to Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards. Adding someone as an authorized user may push them over this limit, though I’ve heard you can ask for an exception if this is the case.

How to Get an Amex Credit Card Without a FICO Score

If you know anything about American Express, you know they require excellent credit to get approved for their credit and charge cards.

They are perceived as a top-tier credit card issuer so only the best applicants can typically apply and get approved for their cards.

But now there’s an option for those who are lacking in the credit department.

A pair of co-branded Amex cards from BBVA don’t use FICO scores to determine approval. Instead, the bank uses your “AMP Credit Rating,” which apparently doesn’t even correspond with FICO.

You Create Your Own Credit Score

The AMP Credit Rating comes from a credit reporting agency called “eCredable” that lets you build your own credit report and subsequently generate your own credit score.

The angle here is that you can add bills that aren’t typically reported by the big three credit bureaus, including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

So even if you eschew credit, you can get approved for an American Express credit card.

With eCredable, you can add bill payment information for a number of bills not found on a standard credit report, such as utilities, insurance, cable and cell phone bills, rent, and more.

In other words, those with no credit who are living “debt free” (I’m looking at you Millennials), or those with limited credit history, can build a report and show creditors like BBVA they are worthy of holding an Amex card.

Apparently some 26 million adults lack a credit file and 19 million don’t have enough credit to generate a credit score using traditional models. These folks are known as “credit invisibles.”

The downside is that it costs $19.95 to get your bill accounts verified. Obviously lenders can’t just take your word for it, and verifying takes time and manpower, so it costs money.

It’s unclear how many accounts you’ll need to verify (if any) to get approved for an Amex (it will depend on your unique credit profile), but it could be worth it. You can use a simulator on the eCredable website to determine what you’ll need for a certain score.

BBVA Compass NBA Credit Card Uses AMP Credit Rating

BBVA NBA

There are a pair of BBVA Compass Amex credit card offers that pull your AMP Credit Rating. They seem to be exactly the same other than the fact that one calls for excellent credit and the other good credit, per AMP’s scale.

Both offer 0% APR for the first six months on purchases before jumping to a variable APR between 9.49% and 29.49%.

The credit limits will range from $500 to $2,000, which is quite low but expected for someone lacking traditional credit.

The good news is there’s no annual fee, a $200 sign-up bonus if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, and a decent rewards structure.

You get 5X points on all purchases during NBA All-Star Weekend and the two weeks of the NBA finals. This is presumably when you’d want to hammer your card hard to earn 5% cash back on everything.

The rest of the year you earn 3X points on NBA tickets, at NBA arenas, and at NBAStore.com.

You also earn 2X points at gas stations and at supermarkets, along with one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

So it’s certainly not a bad starter card…it actually stacks up pretty well. And if you take advantage of the many Amex Offers available you should be able to generate hundreds in savings the first year alone.

That should be more than enough to offset the fees to generate your AMP Credit Rating.

Ideally, you should attempt to build credit the normal way so you have a FICO score (and a VantageScore) so you can avoid paying to create a credit score.

But this is one way to get around that pesky requirement and still end up with a decent credit card.

Please Don’t Get an Alumni Credit Card

Go State! Sure, maybe while you’re attending university and watching their football games on the weekend.

But when it comes to your precious financials, you might want to keep them out of your wallet for good.

Don’t be fooled. When we’re talking about money, loyalty generally doesn’t pay. And secondly, you graduated. It’s time to grow up and throw away your old Ohio State t-shirt. I know it’s a lucky charm but you’re an adult now.

The bad news is the alumni association has your address, even if you move, and tend to always have your address no matter where you go. It’s kind of incredible how they track you.

This means you’ll probably receive all sorts of mailers, and eventually a cool credit card with your school’s logo on the front.

But if you take them up on their offer, chances are you learned nothing during the four or six years it took you to graduate.

Why? Because university credit cards are notoriously crappy. They might have annual fees, sky-high APR, or a poor rewards program (if any at all).

One alumni credit card I came across even rewards you with points for every dollar in interest you accrue! Are you kidding me? The last thing you want to do is carry a balance and pay interest.  Pay it off if you can!

They’re basically banking on your love of the university because they know there are always going to be much better offers out there.

You Probably Got Your First Credit Card on Campus

Let’s rewind for a moment. There’s a high probability you applied for your very first credit card on your college campus.

You know the booths they put out there in the quad with free t-shirts and Snickers bars used as bait.

Well, I’m hoping you learned something during your college years. Things like reading the fine print and shopping around. And while you’re at it, learning how credit cards work to avoid costly finance charges.

If you didn’t bother figuring all that out, maybe the alumni credit card is just the ticket for you. They may even throw in a new sweater you can proudly don on game day.

But I’m hoping you’re smarter than that, despite our lackluster education system that teaches kids and young adults very little about money.

I never learned about credit cards or anything else about personal finance in school. I had to learn as I went and deal with the many pitfalls encountered along the way.

So why would I want to stay loyal to my college and swipe with a credit card with poor terms to boot? That makes no sense.

Plus, as I mentioned, you’re an adult now, so no need to show everyone where you graduated from every time you purchase groceries or start a bar tab.

Besides, your school probably already made enough money off you, what with ridiculous tuition costs and the kickbacks they may have already received for your earlier credit cards.

Look for Something Better Than What the Alumni Association Is Offering

Most of the time, the best offers won’t come to you. Sure, there are targeted credit card offers that do arrive in the mail and they’re certainly worth a look.

But always compare the incoming offers to what’s out there as well. There’s a good chance you’ll do better by seeking out an offer instead of going with what falls in your lap (or out of your mailbox).

I highly doubt there is any alumni credit card in existence that has better terms than most other halfway decent credit cards.

These days, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards card seems to be the card of choice for universities. It’s not terrible, which makes me feel a little better, but it’s certainly not the best card out there, not by a long shot.

And let’s face it; you’re going to need a better rewards program to get out of all that debt.

Is There a Limit to How Many Credit Cards You Can Get Approved For?

Some more credit card Q&A, this time concerning the number of credit cards you can apply for in a certain period of time (and hold) successfully.

This question certainly depends on the card issuer, but some new rules are preventing approvals even if you’ve never applied with a given bank.

Chase Now Has a 5/24 Rule

5/24 rule

Earlier this year, Chase instituted a new policy (it’s not written anywhere publicly) referred to as the “5/24 rule.”

It has been given that name in credit card circles because you won’t get approved for certain Chase credit cards if you’ve opened up five or more credit cards in the past two years.

Apparently the rule only applies when you apply for a personal Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards, such as Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred. So it’s really only two cards that are restricted.

However, business cards such as Chase Ink should be exempt from this rule because they’re tied to a business credit report as opposed to a personal credit report.

Additionally, co-branded Chase credit cards are also exempt so you can still apply for the Chase Hyatt card, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, and so on.

This is bad news for those looking to churn a lot of Ultimate Rewards credit cards in a small period of time because very few individuals that churn open fewer than five credit cards every 24 months, let alone in a year.

Tip: You can use Credit Karma for free to see how many accounts you’ve opened in the past two years by clicking the credit reports tab, then accounts, then sort by open date.

Also, if you’re denied, you can try to get around the 5/24 rule by calling Chase directly (reconsideration line) and asking if you can close an existing Chase credit card in order to open the new one. Or try opening a card with a personal banker in-branch.

Citi’s 8/65 Rule

With Citi, you can only apply for a new Citi credit card every eight days, and only do so twice in a 65-day period.

In other words, you apply for Citi Premier on Day 1. Hopefully you get approved. Then you apply for Citi Prestige on Day 9 or later and ideally get approved for that card as well.

I actually did that recently to take advantage of both 50k sign-up bonuses and it worked just fine.

After you’ve been approved for two Citi cards you have to wait a full 65 days before applying for another (third) Citi credit card.

Again, this is an unwritten rule but one that seems to be true. If you try applying for a third Citi credit card after receiving two approvals in less than 65 days you’ll likely be denied on that basis.

I haven’t tried it so I can’t back it with personal experience, but again it seems to be the rule with Citi.

The good news is that it only applies to Citi cards, unlike Chase’s more comprehensive 5/24 rule.

American Express Limits It to 4 Credit Cards

While this is still widely debated, most pundits agree that the most American Express credit cards you can have at one time is four.

However, you can apply for multiple new American Express cards on the same day. I know this because it’s a tactic to avoid multiple credit inquiries.

Note that the “rule of 4” applies to credit cards and not charge cards. Many Amex cards are actually charge cards (Platinum, Green, Gold, Premier Rewards Gold) and these aren’t counted in the limit.

Additionally, Amex cards issued by other banks such as Fidelity Rewards shouldn’t count nor should prepaid cards like Bluebird and Serve, or authorized user accounts.

This makes the limit confusing to calculate and also weakens the limit itself. If most Amex cards aren’t even credit cards who cares, right?

Aside from Old Blue Cash, Starwoods Preferred Guest, and maybe the new EveryDay credit cards, what else would you want from American Express that isn’t a charge card?

Maybe the TrueEarnings card from Costco, but that’s going away soon and being replaced by Citi. I guess the Delta cards but you could always close an account and avoid that pesky annual fee in the process.

Discover Allows One Credit Card Approval Per Year

Discover is a real stickler for credit card approvals, but because they only offer a few cards it’s not really an issue.

With them, you can only apply for a second Discover card after a full year has passed since you got approved for your first Discover card.

This has probably been an issue for those attempting to take advantage of the Apple Pay promo and the double cash back for new cardholders.

Apparently you can only have two Discover credit cards total in which you are the primary cardholder.

Again, not really an issue because they only have two credit cards worth applying for, Discover it and Discover it Miles.

However, note that you’ll probably need to explain why you want a second Discover credit card if you apply twice because the cards are so similar.

And you may need to reallocate your credit limit if you’re maxed out.

As with all things in the credit card realm, Your Mileage May Vary. If you’re concerned you may be declined and hit with an unnecessary credit hit, you can contact the card issuer in question before you apply and ask if there’s a limit based on your unique situation.

Just be careful not to put your foot in your mouth in the process. Maybe ask such questions discreetly and without identifying yourself.  And don’t be afraid to close a credit card if you want a different one.

Read more: How many credit cards should I have?