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You can apply for a credit card at any time of the year. But just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. Timing your credit card applications can boost your approval odds and more bonus rewards. Let’s look at when is the best time to apply for a credit card.


Best Time to Apply for a Credit Card

The best time to apply for a credit card is going to be a little different for everybody. Influencing factors include your credit score, the current cards you own, and what benefits you want from your next card.

It doesn’t matter if you want to earn cash rewards or travel rewards. With either option, you need to be smart about when you apply for new credit cards.

Factors to Consider When Deciding on the Best Time to Apply

As badly as you want that shiny new credit card and those bonus points in your wallet, don’t apply for it just yet. Look through the list below at least to ensure you’re being smart with your hard-earned money. Making sure you get these ducks in a row helps you get the best credit card possible.

Have a Good Credit Score

Thanks to free credit score websites, it’s easier than ever to learn your credit score. Take the time to review your credit report for errors and verify that your current card and loan accounts are paid up. Fewer negative marks mean a higher credit score.

Your credit score is the largest determining factor for what credit cards you qualify for. To get an unsecured rewards credit card (one that doesn’t require a security deposit), plan on having a score above 620. These aren’t the best credit cards on the market so look at them as a stepping stone.

Use these credit cards to build credit so you can upgrade to a stronger rewards credit card in the future.

Once your score crosses the 700 mark, you have good approval odds for almost every credit card available.

Quick Tips to Improve Your Credit Score Fast

Achieving excellent credit (a score between 780 and 850) can take a few years. These techniques can help boost your score quickly.

  • Pay your statement balance in full each month
  • Pay off a loan in full
  • Only use up to 30% of your card’s total credit limit
  • Correct any credit reporting errors with each credit bureau
  • Wait at least three months between credit applications

On-time payment history and keeping a low credit usage ratio are the two most effective ways to increase your credit score.

By paying off any existing loans you have, you should also see a positive bump when the lender reports your loans “paid in full” as you can responsibly show you manage credit.

Plan Large Purchases

For you, the main reason for getting a new credit card is likely going to be for the signup bonus. Most bonus offers require you to spend x amount of dollars within three months of your account opening.

Some bonus offers can be easy to achieve by spending $500 in the first three months. Others might require you to spend upwards of $5,000 in the first three months to earn the bonus offer usually worth at least $600.

Some credit cards also offer tiered signup bonuses where you earn the regular three-month bonus offer. Then you can earn a second bonus by spending more money within six months or twelve months.

Knowing if and when you’re going to be a big spender makes it easier to plan your next credit card application. Before you pay cash for your next grand vacation, home repairs, or phone upgrade, wait to make the purchase during the signup bonus qualifying period.

Wait for Enhanced Signup Bonuses

Some of the best travel credit cards offer enhanced signup bonuses during at least once a year. One of the best examples is from some of the best airline credit cards.

The Southwest Airlines bonus is usually 40,000 Rapid Rewards points that sometimes will get bumped to 60,000 bonus points, putting you 20,000 points closer to earning the Companion Pass while spending the same amount as usual.

Throughout the year, banks launch new rewards cards. To attract applicants, they offer limited-time bonuses that disappear a few weeks after the launch. Once the enhanced bonus disappears, you don’t know when it may reappear. If it does, you don’t know if you can earn as many points.

Some of the best credit card offers are full of rewards that can help you reach your end-of-year travel goals.

Review Bank Credit Card Application Rules

If you’ve applied for several credit cards in the last 24 months you might want to wait before you apply again. To limit card churning, some banks will decline your application if you have too many new credit cards. Even if you have perfect credit, your application can be declined.

The most notorious is Chase Bank and its 5/24 Rule that applies to most of its cash and travel rewards cards. Regardless of which bank issues the credit card, Chase declines your application if you have five new credit cards in the most recent 24 months.

If you’re considering Bank of America credit cards, they operate a bit differently. You can apply for up to two new cards every two months, three cards every 12 months, and four cards every 24 months. This policy only applies to credit cards issued by Bank of America. It doesn’t appear that non-BofA credit cards affect your approval odds.

Finally, some banks require you to be a current customer to apply for their best credit cards. If opening an account doesn’t justify the potential rewards, consider a different credit card.

Don’t Apply For a Credit Card If You Fall Under These Categories

In the below instances, wait a good amount of time before you apply for a credit card.

Don’t Qualify for the Signup Bonus

Wait to apply for a new card until you can meet the signup bonus spending requirements. If you’re applying for a credit card you once owned, most banks require you to wait at least 24 months from account closing before you requalify for the signup bonus.

The one exception to this rule is American Express which only award the signup bonus once to each primary cardholder.

Unless you must have the ongoing card benefits now, being disqualified from the signup bonus can potentially mean you miss out on up to $1,000 in bonus rewards.

Applying for a Home Mortgage Soon

If you’re currently applying for a home mortgage or will be soon, wait until after you sign the loan closing documents to apply for a credit card. Not waiting jeopardizes your approval odds for your mortgage.

You can also follow this same rule for other consumer loans, but the underwriting standards aren’t as strict.

If you apply for a credit card before a loan, try to wait at least three to six months before getting a loan. This allows time for you to establish an on-time payment history with your new card. Plus, your credit score will recover and possibly increase a few points.

Summary of Best Time to Apply for a Credit Card

Applying for new credit cards can be like art. Being patient can help you qualify for the best offers and rewards. Instead of applying for every possible card, time your applications to get the best card and offer that matches your credit score.

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