Alongside keeping track of rewards card applications and managing your credit score, it’s essential to understand the credit card application rules for each credit provider. How many cards can you hold? Are there restrictions on how many cards you can apply for? Can you hold more than one of the same card?

The internet is flush with incomplete information about what you can and cannot do. So, we wanted to provide a resource that shares information available from the financial institutions and card issuers, combined with the experiences and data points of the award travel community in one place.

To be abundantly clear, these are not all official rules published by any financial institution, but rather anecdotal evidence supported by data from the points and miles community, including readers like you.

These rules have an enormous impact on how you approach your credit card application strategy. Understanding them will help you plan a long-term, sustainable approach to earning points and miles for excellent travel experiences.

businesswoman holding a sign saying "terms and conditions"

These credit card issuer rules affect:

  1. If you’ll be approved for a new card.
  2. How many credit cards you can hold at any one time from the same issuer.
  3. If you can receive a bonus more than once on the same card.
  4. How much credit you can access across all cards you hold with that provider.

We’ll update this post as rules change or new information comes to light. So, if you have a data point to add to one of the listed providers, please reach out in the comments at the bottom of the post.

Credit Card Application Rules by Credit Provider

Before we dig in, it’s important to note that not all the restrictions here are hard and fast ‘rules.’ There are restrictions that are clearly communicated—such as Amex’s ‘one bonus per card per lifetime‘. Others, like Chase 5/24 Rule, are derived from a combination of data points supplied by the points and miles community, guidelines described by the provider, and policies printed in error and then retracted.

A Summary:

Maximum Number of Cards Allowed Credit Card Application Frequency Receive New Cardmember Bonus More Than Once? Waiting Period Between New Cardmember Bonuses
American Express 5 credit cards and 10 cards with the Pay Over Time feature Max 2x credit cards per 90 days (e.g. 1x business + 1x personal), no known limit for cards with the Pay Over Time feature. No One welcome offer per card, per lifetime
(Marriott-specific rules)
Bank of America Majority of cardholders allowed maximum 4x cards. 2 new Bank of America cards in any 2 months period.
3 new Bank of America cards in any 12 months period.
4 new Bank of America cards in any 24 months period.
Yes Must wait 24 months after closing a card to open the same card. Applications subject to 2/3/4 rule
Barclays No set limit but no more than one of each card. 1 card per 6 months and only 1 card at a time – Arrival Plus specific 6/24 rule (unlikely to be approved if you’ve opened 6+ new cards in 24 months) Yes No set policy. If reapplying for same card, must cancel card and wait 6 months before reapplying
Capital One Max 2x consumer cards per card family (e.g. 2x Capital One branded cards) 1 personal or 1 business card per 6 months. Yes No waiting period outside of application frequency
Chase No card limit. Limit on total line of credit across all cards. All Ultimate Rewards-earning cards and most (if not all) co-brand cards subject to 5/24, see linked post for list of affected cards. 1 personal + 1 business card per 90 days. Yes 24 months (or 48 months for Sapphire cards) after last receiving bonus and not a current cardholder
(Sapphire-specific rules)
(Marriott-specific rules)
Citi No card limit. Limit on total line of credit across all cards. Max 1 personal card per 8 days + 2x total cards per 65 days. Max 1 business card per 95 days. Yes Can receive a signup bonus if you haven’t opened OR closed card from the same family of cards in the previous 24 months. One signup bonus per card family per 24 months. Citi/AAdvantage cards don’t have the same restrictions on receiving a bonus within the same family of cards, but have more rigid rules and only allow you to earn a bonus every 48 months on each card.
U.S. Bank No card limit. Limit on total line of credit across all cards. No written rule, unlikely to be approved if you have many inquiries/new accounts on your credit report. Yes No written policy; if approved for the card, you should receive the bonus.
Wells Fargo No card limit. Limit on total line of credit across all cards. 1 card per 6 months and only 1 card at a time. Yes Eligible for one Wells Fargo introductory offer every 15 months

American Express Application Rules

American Express Membership Rewards

Maximum Number of Cards

The Amex rules about how many cards you can hold are a bit complicated. Some American Express cards function like a traditional credit card—each cardholder has a credit limit and the option to finance charges that aren’t paid in full.

Other Amex cards only allow you to carry a balance for certain charges with a feature called “Pay Over Time”. Amex used to call this second group of cards “charge cards”. However, it’s decided to move away from that term to avoid confusion.

With respect to the number of Amex cards you can hold, it looks like nothing will change:

  • Each individual can hold five traditional credit cards from the first group.
  • You can hold up to ten cards with an option to Pay Over Time for select charges (from the group of cards formerly referred to as “charge” cards.)

Both limits apply to the total number of American Express cards held by a single individual—including both small business and consumer cards.

Application Frequency

You can safely apply for two Amex cards in a single day (e.g. 1x business + 1x personal, or 1x credit + 1x cards with Pay Over Time). However, one will likely be held up for review as a fraud prevention measure. Amex restricts credit card applications to two every 90 days. But, we’ve encountered exceptions when applying for a combination of credit cards and cards with the Pay Over Time feature.

Welcome Offer Restrictions

Amex has some of the most restrictive rules for who can earn a new cardmember bonus. You can receive a welcome offer for each product just once per ‘lifetime’.

The good news is that a “lifetime” isn’t as long as you might think. Amex will periodically purge old cardholder data, unlocking the ability to earn a welcome offer on the same card. However, it may be several years (generally 5-7 years) after closing an account before this happens.

In the meantime, Amex has a wide variety of cards available. And, unlike some other banks, applying for one Amex card won’t disqualify you from cards that earn the same type of points.

For example, if you’ve received the welcome offer on The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can still receive the bonus on the American Express® Gold Card. You can also get the bonus on both personal and business versions of a card. So, if you’ve received the bonus on a consumer co-brand card, you can still receive the bonus on the business version. Here’s the language (or similar) that you’ll see on welcome offer restrictions:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. 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.”

You don’t have to second-guess whether or not you’re eligible. Amex added an eligibility tool to help applicants determine if they qualify for a new cardmember welcome offer. Amex will pop up a warning during the application process to indicate if you’re not eligible for the welcome offer on a new card.

There are also additional restrictions on the welcome offers for the new Marriott co-brand cards. These rules are confusing, to say the least. Thankfully we have a dedicated post breaking down the eligibility requirements for each card.

Bank of America Application Rules

bank-of-america-logo

Maximum Number of Cards

Bank of America used to be the most generous credit provider for opening and holding multiple cards but that no longer appears to be the case. In 2017, Bank of America started clamping down on account holders they think have too many cards, sometimes closing older accounts before new ones (based on the lowest credit limit first).

The data for this is inconsistent. However, it appears BoA is restricting the majority of account holders to a maximum of 4 cards. If you have any data points, please let us know.

Application Frequency

Bank of America tightened its belt for new card applications too. See the Bank of America 2/3/4 rule. This stands for:

  • 2 cards per 2-month period
  • 3 new cards per rolling 12-month period
  • 4 cards per rolling 24-month period

These numbers are specific to BoA cards. Other bank-issued cards aren’t counted when calculating the 2/3/4 rule.

BoA used to accept multiple applications in a single day, sometimes even for the same card! However, with reports of applications denied, and sometimes, accounts closed and points forfeited, we’d suggest holding off on applying for multiple cards at the same time and to think long-term.

Another application rule concerns the number of accounts you have opened recently at any bank—not just Bank of America. This rule varies by whether or not you have banking accounts with Bank of America.

  • If you have a deposit account with Bank of America: your credit card application will be denied if you have opened 7 new cards in the past 12 months, based on what they see on your credit report.
  • If you do NOT have a deposit account with Bank of America: your credit card application will be denied if you have 3 new cards in the past 12 months.

Signup Bonus Restrictions

Most cards are now subject to a 24-month waiting period: You cannot get a card if you currently have (or had in the previous 24 months) the same card.

Barclays Application Rules

barclays-logo-banner

Maximum Number of Cards

There is no set limit, but Barclays is pretty stringent on how many cards you can hold. Barclays won’t allow you to hold more than one of the same card. Barclays appears to factor in how often you use current cards, in addition to standard considerations when deciding on new card applications.

Application Frequency

Stick to one card every six months and only one card at a time. Barclays is not flexible on application frequency.

Signup Bonus Restrictions

If you’re approved, you’re eligible to earn the bonus. If you already hold the card, you must cancel it and wait around six months to get the card again. Barclays will not let you downgrade to a card within the same family to get the signup bonus on the current card.

Capital One Application Rules

Capital One Logo

Maximum Number of Cards

There is a ton of conflicting information on Capital One cards. From the available info, you can hold a maximum of two Capital One branded cards at any one time. We found no specific cap on the total number of cards you can hold; the restrictions apply to a cap on each family of cards.

For example, you can hold two Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card‘s alongside a Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, but you could not hold three Capital One Venture cards. We would welcome more data on this. So, if you have specific examples, please let us know in the comments.

Application Frequency

Capital One’s application rules are simple; 1 card every 6 months. There is no distinction between personal and business cards. By all reports, Capital One doesn’t even perform a hard pull on your file if you try to apply for more. Instead, it flags additional applications that follow the first one as ‘duplicates.’

You can apply for the same card after six months but only if you don’t already hold two cards from the same family. Keep in mind when applying for Capital One cards they pull from all three credit bureaus. Capital One business cards are also reported on your personal credit report and will count towards your Chase 5/24 count.

Bonus Restrictions

The general rule for Capital One cards; if you’re approved, you’ll receive the bonus. There is no set time period between bonuses and no restriction on specific families of card, just the application and max number of cards mentioned above.

Chase Application Rules

In 2018, Chase tightened the application requirements for virtually all of its rewards credit cards. The applying the 5/24 policy across its entire range of rewards cards. We cover the changes in more detail in this dedicated post.

Maximum Number of Cards

Chase has no formal policy on the number of cards you can hold, with plenty of cardholders possessing multiple flavors of the same card family amongst a full stable of Chase products. However, Chase restricts the total line of credit available to you across all Chase personal cards.

For example, if you have 6 cards totaling $80K in credit limits, Chase may consider $80K the ceiling for your current income and liabilities. To open another card, you’d likely need to chat with a Chase banker to reallocate your credit from already existing lines of credit to a new line.

Application Frequency

Again, Chase doesn’t state a formal position in writing. But, we’ve covered Chase’s application rules in detail due to its restrictive nature.

The chief policy affecting Chase applicants is the 5/24 rule. If you’ve had five or more credit cards added to your credit report in the previous 24 months from ANY card issuer, it is highly likely you will be denied when applying for select Chase rewards cards.

The restriction applies to virtually all Chase cards—including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt, and other co-brand cards from Chase. It’s also important to distinguish between cards subject to 5/24, and those that count towards 5/24, a subject we deep-dive in our post listing all cards subject to the Chase 5/24 policy.

Besides 5/24, Chase also restricts the number of cards you can apply for in 30- and 90-day periods. Our recommendation is to apply for only 1 personal and 1 business card from Chase in a 90-day period if you want to maximize your chance of having applications accepted.

Signup Bonus Restrictions

While you may need to talk with a banker at Chase to receive an approval, it’s much less restrictive than Amex if you choose to come back to a card that you’ve previously held. The majority of Chase products state you can earn the bonus again 24 months after you last received it, as long as you’re not a current cardmember of that product.

“This product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this credit card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.”

The exception to this rule is the Sapphire cards. In 2017, Chase updated its terms and conditions for the Sapphire family of credit cards. See a full write-up on the changes in our detailed post. If you already have a Sapphire card or have received a Sapphire card signup bonus anytime in the previous 48 months, you can no longer apply for a second Sapphire product:

“This product is available to you if you do not have any Sapphire card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months.”

Other card families also have their own restrictions. For instance, you can’t get another personal Southwest card if you’ve earned a sign-up bonus on another Southwest card within 24 months:

“The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to Cardmembers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card and Employee Credit Card products.”

The application restrictions on Marriott co-brand cards are a different beast altogether, confounding even the most experienced points and miles fans. We’ve put together a post detailing the rules, plus a fantastic guide from Award Travel 101 founder Richard Kerr detailing the best application strategy for Marriott cards.

Citibank Application Rules

Citi ThankYou Rewards Logo

Maximum Number of Cards

Much like Chase, Citi doesn’t have a hard and fast rule on the number of cards you can have. Instead, it restricts the combined total credit limit extended across all Citi cards. If you get the ‘Application Pending’ notice, Citi will often provide you an application reference number and a phone number to call for an immediate review of the application.

Application Frequency

Citi has tight restrictions on application frequency which are easy to understand—if a little frustrating. You can only apply for one personal card per eight-day period, and only two cards in a 65-day period. Business accounts are even harder to get, with Citi accepting just one business card application every 90 to 95 days.

Signup Bonus Restrictions

Citi has a 24-month cycle for collecting signup bonuses on most cards, with a twist. If you open a card and receive the signup bonus, you can receive the bonus again after 24 months of having the card open (by opening another of the same card). OR, if you close the card inside the first 24 months, you need to wait 24 months from the date you closed the card to receive the bonus again on a new card account.

Citi also restricts signup bonuses across entire families of rewards cards. For example, if you received a bonus on the Citi Prestige® Card, you’d need to wait 24 months before receiving the bonus on the Citi Premier® Card as they belong to the same rewards family.

Where this rule doesn’t apply is to the AAdvantage family of Citi cards. While Citi has dropped the restrictions on applying for other cards within the AAdvantage family, these cards have even more rigid application rules and now require a 48-month wait between signup bonuses.

“American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have received a new account bonus for a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® account in the past 48 months.”

U.S. Bank Application Rules

usbank_logo

Maximum Number of Cards

U.S. Bank doesn’t provide a formal limit on the number of cards you can hold. Instead, the bank limits the total line of credit for each customer. Given the bank’s sensitivity to recent applications and recent account openings, being approved for numerous cards in a year is not likely for most customers.

Application Frequency

There are no written rules on application frequency. That being said, unwritten rules and consumer experiences show that U.S. Bank is sensitive to how many credit inquiries and new accounts they see on your credit report. U.S. Bank is likely to deny your application if you are applying for and opening numerous accounts—even if these are with other banks.

Signup Bonus Restrictions

There are no written rules against earning a bonus on the same card a second time after closing it and applying again. Additionally, there are no restrictions stating that you cannot have card B if you already have card A, etc. The only rule written in stone is for U.S. Bank’s premium card, the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. The application page for this card says “Exclusive to U.S. Bank customers.”

Other than this, there are no ‘card family’ or ‘had the card before’ application restrictions regarding bonuses. If you are approved for the card, you should receive the bonus after completing the spending requirements.

Wells Fargo Application Rules

weels-fargo-banner

Maximum Number of Cards

Wells Fargo doesn’t provide a formal limit on the number of cards you can hold, however, appears to limit the total line of credit for each customer. Given the inflexible application restrictions, applying for too many Wells Fargo cards is not likely to present much of an issue for most folks, as you simply won’t be approved for multiple cards or signup bonuses each year.

Application Frequency

Wells Fargo restricts applicants to one credit card every six months. Although the language is a little vague, the application restrictions are strictly enforced from all reports.

“You may not qualify for an additional Wells Fargo credit card if you have opened a Wells Fargo credit card in the last 6 months.”

Signup Bonus Restrictions

Again, the Wells Fargo language is a little vague, but you’ll only receive one introductory offer on a Wells Fargo credit card product every 15 months, and that includes intro APR offers. If you’re looking to bank Wells Fargo signup bonuses, you’ll need to stagger your applications and space them out at least 15+ months apart.

“Eligibility for introductory rate(s), fees, and bonus rewards offers. You may not be eligible for introductory annual percentage rates, fees, and/or bonus rewards offers if you opened a Wells Fargo Credit Card within the last 15 months from the date of this application, and you received introductory APR(s), fees, and/or bonus rewards offers, even if that account is closed and has a $0 balance.”

Final Thoughts

Understanding each provider’s credit card application rules and restrictions will help you develop a successful long-term rewards travel strategy and ensure you don’t waste “hard pulls” (credit inquiries) on cards you aren’t likely to get approved for. Remember, many of these restrictions aren’t written rules. Instead, they are pulled from community data. If you receive conflicting information from providers, we’d love to hear about it.

Again, if you have questions about the information we’ve provided in this post, please get in touch in the comments below. We will do our best to find you an answer and update this guide.

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