Historically, one of the best and easiest ways to get a ton of airline miles and hotel points has been through credit card signups
(SEE ALSO: How I got a million points (and you can too!))
With a few timely credit card signups, you could easily rack up enough miles to travel just about anywhere you wanted. Credit card signup bonuses was the main contributor to Frequent Miler’s “Million Mile Madness” a few years ago, where he attempted to earn 1,000,000 points in one month!
Current credit card signup rules – a crackdown
Recently however, the banks have been cracking down on credit card signups, making it harder for people that repeatedly sign up for credit cards to get new signup bonuses. Some banks are denying applicants with too many recent applications outright, while others won’t give a bonus if you’ve had the card recently.
I’ve attempted to compile the known information for each of the major banks, based on other blogs, online travel resources and my own personal experiences. If you have corrections, comments or other data points, I’d love to hear them in the comments
American Express credit card rules and best practices
The American Express official policy appears to be a maximum of 4 (now 5) credit cards that you can have at one time, and this does NOT include charge cards (like the American Express gold card). The 5 credit card maximum includes Business AND Personal cards, but does not appear to include cards where you are just an Authorized user.
This Flyertalk thread shares some examples and data points of the 5 card policy. There does appear to be some exceptions as Dan from Dans Deals reports that he has TEN! Amex cards, though many people have reported that higher numbers of cards were from before the 5 card limit was introduced, and any new cards would not be approved unless and until the person closed enough cards to get under the 5 card limit.
Best practices for American Express is that most American Express PERSONAL cards will not allow you to get a bonus if you’ve ever received a bonus for that product before. You used to be able to get a bonus on an American Express business card if you hadn’t had the card in the past 12 months, but that has now changed – American Express business cards are now also only one bonus per lifetime.
Bank of America credit card rules
Bank of America used to have some of the most relaxed credit card signup rules. It used to be that you could get multiple Bank of America cards over and over again and since Bank of America also combines credit pulls from the same day into one pull, there were even reports of people getting multiple Bank of America cards on the same day!
(SEE ALSO: Alaska Airlines credit card with $100 statement credit is BACK!)
Now Bank of America has introduced the Bank of America 2/3/4 rule. At most, Bank of America will only approve:
- Two cards within a two month period
- Three cards within a 12 month period
- Four cards within a 24 month period
Barclaycard credit card signup rules
You can also sign up for multiple Barclaycard cards in some cases, per the Doctor of Credit master post on the subject. Personally I’ve not had good luck getting Barclaycard cards. Back before the Barclay Arrival card gutted any of its benefits, I had tried to sign up for a second one. I was denied, and even though I called the Barclay reconsideration phone number, I could not get them to approve me.
Miles to Memories reports that there appears to be a system in place that will automatically decline you if you already have the card you’re trying to apply for. You might have better luck canceling and then re-applying. Recommended minimum wait time between applications is around 6 months, though that’s more of a guideline.
Chase credit card signup rules
Chase used to be one of the more popular banks for repeated credit card signups, until the introduction of the dreaded Chase 5/24 rule
(SEE ALSO: Chase Ultimate Rewards: 5 reasons I think they’re the best miles out there)
Chase 5/24 says that if you have opened 5 or more cards from ANY bank in the past 24 months, then you are unlikely to be approved for most new Chase cards. This includes personal cards from ALL banks, but does not include business cards from most banks (Chase included). For some reason, Capital One is the only bank that reports business cards to the credit bureaus, so Capital One business cards will count towards your 5 card limit. For the list of cards that are and are not subject to Chase 5/24, see The 2 types of cards not subject to Chase 5/24
Authorized User accounts also count towards the 5 application limit but if it’s only AU cards that are putting you over 5/24, you can call in to overturn Chase 5/24
Citibank credit card signup rules
Most current Citibank offers have language that states something like the following:
Bonus Hilton HHonors points are not available if you have had any Citi®Hilton HHonors™ card opened or closed in the past 24 months.
This is a deterrent to people who sign up for lots of cards, though it doesn’t completely rule out things. For example, between the 2 of us, we have 3 Hilton HHonors cards (they used to be much easier to get), but we’ve just kept them open. So as I understand it, because it’s been 24 months since we opened the cards, we should both still be eligible.
This is a change as of August 2016 – previously you were only ineligible for the bonus if you had opened or closed THAT particular card within the past 24 months (SEE: Citi changes the rules to crack down on people who sign up for lots of cards)
This in and of itself is a change as of April 2016 – previous to that it was only 18 months required between opening and closing the account and getting the bonus again (SEE: An update to the Citi rules)
The general guidelines for applying for Citibank cards are:
- Maximum of one Citi application per eight day period
- No more than two applications per 65 day period
- No more than one business application per 95 day period
If you have questions about other banks, such as US Bank, Discover, Capital One or others, I recommend this Doctor of Credit post.
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Just a couple of minor details.
Under American Express, for business cards, you have advised that you can’t get a bonus again if you have gotten the bonus in the last 12 months, but this rule is actually that you can’t get the bonus if you have had the same card in the last 12 months. So if you got the bonus 4 years ago but only closed the account 6 months ago, you would not get the bonus.
For Chase, I am pretty sure that you will be denied for having more than 5 new accounts in the last two years, not 5 applications. I was also denied for the IHG card for having too many new accounts in the last two years, although in my case it was 6 new Chase accounts and 20 new accounts overall. And I think that was just an excuse when they did not want to give me a new account, not an actual rule that they were following.
Thanks for the comments on Amex business cards – I’ve updated the post. Also thanks for the data point on Chase.
My spouse is an authorized user on my Citicard. When I’ve attempted to get him his own acct as a primary, he’s been denied. Reason has been “already has an account.” I keep getting shuttled back and forth between departments when I call. Any suggestions? In our current situation, he can’t get a free checked bag if he flies without me on both American and/or United.
Nice post. Thanks for compiling this info.