Some of us have too many credit cards. Depending on your lifestyle, it might make sense to have three or four cards in your wallet. And as long as you’re keeping up with your monthly bills, there’s nothing wrong with having multiple credit cards. But what if you don’t think you have enough cards? What if you want to apply for a new one? Let’s dive into the credit card application process and look at when it does (and doesn’t) make sense to apply for a credit card. A financial advisor can help you pick an appropriate credit card.
How to Apply for a Credit Card
If it’s been awhile since you applied for a credit card, here’s a refresher on how the process works. You can apply for a credit card by mailing in a paper application, speaking to a representative over the phone or completing an online application. Be prepared to provide various details about yourself and your financial background, such as your annual household income and the amount of money in your bank and investment accounts.
How long it takes to get a credit card depends on your application method and the type of credit card you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a credit card online, for example, you may be instantly approved. But if you’re applying for a credit card through the mail, the approval process could take weeks.
Before you apply for a credit card, it’s always a good idea to do some research. That way, you can find the most appropriate card for your financial situation. As you’re shopping around for cards, don’t forget to compare perks, fees, interest rates and general terms and conditions. Reading online reviews could also be worthwhile if you want to know what others think about a particular card.
When Applying for a Credit Card Makes Sense
Applying for a second (or fourth) credit card may be worth considering if you want to raise your credit score. After all, opening another credit card account will automatically lower your credit utilization ratio. That factor (along with the total amount of debt you owe) accounts for 30% of your FICO® score. And as long as you make on-time payments across all of your accounts, getting another credit card could improve your credit.
Filling out another credit card application could also make sense if you have a high credit score and a good track record with your current card issuers. An additional credit card could give you access to benefits, including better rewards, lower interest rates and a higher credit limit. And if you know you can handle having another credit card, you might as well go for it.
Opening another account could improve your credit mix, too. Only 10% of your FICO® score depends on the types of credit accounts you have. But if you’re determined to raise your credit score as much as possible, it doesn’t hurt to have a variety of accounts.
When Applying for a Credit Card Is a Bad Idea
With each hard inquiry, your credit score will take a bit of a hit. So if you have bad credit, applying for another credit card may only make matters worse. Plus, your chances of getting approved for another card will be low if your credit’s in rough shape.
Getting a new credit card could also be a bad idea if you have poor financial habits. If you always max out your cards or you regularly make late payments, you’re not a good candidate for another card. The same goes for anyone who can’t afford to cover the cost of extra interest and credit card fees.
You’ll need to think about how often you would use a new credit card as well. Your credit card issuer may eventually close your account if you stop using your card. That will cause your credit score to drop.
How Long You Should Wait Before Applying Again
Applying for multiple credit cards in a short time span can ding your credit score. It can also raise a red flag if it seems like you’re desperate for access to additional credit. Having too many credit inquiries on your credit report (i.e. six or more inquiries) also suggests that you’re a risky borrower who’s more likely to default.
If you’ve recently applied for a credit card, it may be a good idea to wait six months before trying to open another account. But how long you should wait to apply depends on your credit score. If you have good credit, you can probably get away with submitting another credit card application within three months or less. If you have bad credit, however, your best bet is to focus on building credit. Raising your credit score enough to qualify for the card you want could take as many as 12 months.
Tips on Borrowing
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/kzenon, ©iStock.com/MangoStar_Studio, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov