The Complete Guide To Credit Card Application Rules and Restrictions For 2019


The days when all you needed to successful y apply for a credit card was a good credit rating are long gone. Today aside from credit almost every major card issuer has a host of rules and restrictions, that can make a successful application a minefield. Understanding these credit card rules is crucial if you want to give your application a decent chance of success.

Understanding credit card rules can help your application. Photo: Goodfreephotos

Types of credit card rules and restrictions

Glancing across the range of credit card rules and restrictions in place from card issuers can be a little confusing. There are a huge variety and names of rules. Although ultimately almost every rule out there will fall in one of several broad categories. Each category of credit card rules is designed by the card issuer to combat what it sees as possible abuse of its product.

Total number of cards held

Some financial institution place a limit on the number of their cards you can hold. This rule is designed to maximize their profits and cut cost. With each card, the perks are costing the issuer money, so they want to minimize the number of cards held by each individual. This can be an issue if most of the cards you would like are issued by one institution, so you will need to prioritize which cards you apply for.

Line of credit rules

Card issuers have different credit card rules regarding your creditworthiness and how much credit they are willing to extend to you based on risk. While some card issuers have no overall limit and will issue each card as a stand-alone card, most do not. The majority of card issuers will have a limit on the total line of credit they will grant you. For instance, an issuer may be willing to extend $100,000 of credit to you, in which case you could opt to have 10 cards with a limit of $10,000 each, or 20 cards with a limit of $5,000 each.


New line of credit rules

Financial institutions often place a limit on how many new cards you can open in a given period. This is because they perceive someone who is rapidly opening multiple credit accounts to be a high risk, regardless of how good their credit is. Some issuers only apply a limit to how often you can open a new line of credit with them, while other issuers like to look at the broader picture and place a restriction how often you can open a new line of credit across multiple card issuers.

Same card application frequency rules


How often you can make the same credit card application is subject to restrictions too, and card issuers will only allow you to apply for the same card after a ‘cooling off’ period. This is usually between six and 24 months, depending on the issuer. The rule is designed to stop abuse of the product’s perks and benefits. For instance, if your card offers elite status or a free night, the issuer does not want people getting the card before a vacation, using the perk, and then ditching the card.

Sign up bonus restrictions

Lately, a lot of issuers have been putting a limit on the number of times you can receive a card welcome bonus. Some issuers will only allow you to receive a welcome bonus once per lifetime, even after several years of not holding the same card. Others will allow you to receive multiple welcome bonuses, as long as you meet the card application frequency rules. This rule is specifically designed to combat what is known as ‘churning’, where individuals would apply for a card with a generous bonus. They then would hold the card for several months to meet the bare minimum spending requirements to trigger the bonus, before canceling the card, waiting for the cool off period and repeating the process.


Bank Of America

Bank Of America has two main credit card rules in place which affect new card applications. The first is the 2/3/4 rule and the second is the newly introduced 24-month rule.

The 2/3/4 rule affect how many new BOA card accounts you can open in a given period. You can open two cards over two months, three cards over 12 months, or four cards over 24 months. This rule only applies to BOA issued cards and does not include any other cards you may have applied for with other issuers.

The second rule that BOA introduced recently is that you are not eligible to apply for a card you have held in the previous 24 months.

Rules and restrictions summary

Maximum Number of Cards HeldLimit on Welcome BonusApplication Frequency RulesLimit on Total Line of Credit
4 Cards• Yes
• 24-month restriction
• 2 cards in 2 months
• 3 cards in 12 months
• 4 cards in 24 months
Not Known

American Express

American Express has some complicated rules and restrictions on applying for new card products. However, since these rules are not formal, they do make exceptions on a regular basis. Amex has rules on the number of cards you can hold, how often you can apply for Amex cards, and welcome bonus restrictions.

Amex has a very strict policy on welcome bonuses. You can only receive a new card member bonus once per lifetime, no matter how long it has been between applying for the cards. Also, Amex may also look at the number of cards you have opened and closed in the past to determine whether you are eligible for a bonus or not. Fortunately, Amex has added a welcome bonus eligibility checker on their website as part of the application process.

In terms of applying for credit cards, you can only apply for two credit cards every 90 days. The maximum number of Amex cards you can apply for is two per day.

You can hold four Amex credit cards and one of each of its charge cards. This total applies to both consumer and business cards. You can hold a mix of both or all from one category as long as your total number of cards does not exceed four credit cards. As far as we know, there is no restriction on your total line of credit.

Rules and restrictions summary

Maximum Number of Cards HeldLimit on Welcome BonusApplication Frequency RulesLimit on Total Line of Credit
• 4 Credit cards
• One version of Each Charge card
Once Per Lifetime• 2 credit cards every 90 days
• 2 cards (Charge, Consumer, Business) per day
Not Known

J.P. Morgan Chase

Chase has a wide variety of credit card rules and restrictions on new card applications, including some that only apply to specific cards.

The most famous and restrictive rule Chase imposes what is known as the 5/24 rule. Chase only allows you to open five new cards in 24 months. What makes this rule so restrictive is that not only does it apply to Chase issued card but to all other issuers as well. The 5/24 rule applies across the whole family of Chase cards.

In terms of number of cards held, and how often you can apply for a card, Chase has no official policy. However, they do restrict the total line of credit you can hold. So, for instance, if your maximum credit line is $100,000, and that is already split between five Chase cards ($20,000 each), and you want to open a 6th card you are eligible for, you will need to discuss this with Chase and ask to allocate some of the credit from the five other cards to the new card.

As a rule, you have to wait 24 months before receiving another welcome bonus for a Chase card you have held before, and a received a welcome bonus from. This applies to all Chast credit card applications, except the Chase Sapphire cards which have a more stringent 48 month waiting period.

Rules and restrictions summary

Maximum Number of Cards HeldLimit on Welcome BonusApplication Frequency RulesLimit on Total Line of Credit
No limit• No
• 24 months for most cards
• 24 months for most cards
• 48 months for Sapphire cards
Yes across all card accounts

Citi Bank

Citi has restrictive rules that affect application frequency and welcome bonuses, but it is more relaxed on the numbers of cards held.

When it comes to sign-up bonuses Citi has some of the most extensive and complicated rules on the market today. Citi’s credit card rules include:

  • One welcome bonus every 24 months from the date you closed your card
  • Applying for a card you already have you can receive a welcome bonus if your application is 24 months after the date of opening your original card
  • You can only receive one signup bonus from one card per family of cards. So if you receive a bonus from a Citi ThankYou points earning card, you will have to wait 24 months before getting another welcome bonus from a different card from the same Citi ThankYou points family

You can only apply for one card every eight days or two Citi cards in a rolling 65-day period. If your application includes business credit cards, the rules are tighter with one application allowed every 95 days.

Citi does not restrict the total number of cards you can hold, however, similar to Chase, it does restrict the total line of credit it is will extend to you.

Rules and restrictions summary

Maximum Number of Cards HeldLimit on Welcome BonusApplication Frequency RulesLimit on Total Line of Credit
No Limit• NO
• Same Card bonus every 24 months
• Restrictions on Card families
• 1 card every 8 days
• 2 cards every 65 days
• 1 business card every 95 days
Yes across all card accounts

Final thoughts

Understanding the various credit card rules and restrictions each card issuer imposes is one of the keys to making successful applications (alongside excellent credit). Being declined for a credit on a technicality is bad news for your credit score, and it will take a hit. Understanding how the rules and restrictions work is important, especially if you are regularly applying for cards and opening lines of credit. At the end of the day you need to give your credit card application the best chance of success.