What to Do When You’ve Been Denied for a Credit Card

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You’ve just gotten the dreaded denial letter on your credit card application. Now find out what you can do to potentially get it turned around.

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When you’re excited about getting a new credit card, there’s nothing more annoying than filling out the entire application only to end up with a denial. You feel like you’ve wasted your time telling the card issuer all about your finances and personal information without a credit card to show for it.

A denial doesn’t mean you need to give up hope entirely, though. Here’s how you can dust yourself off, figure out what the problem is, and maybe still get the card you wanted in the first place.

1. Check the denial reason

By law, the card issuer must mail you a letter that lists any reasons for declining your application. If you haven’t received that letter yet, you can also call the card issuer and get the reasons from a representative.

Here are the most common reasons a card issuer would deny your application:

  • Your credit score is too low.
  • Your income isn’t high enough.
  • You have too many recent credit card applications or credit accounts that you’ve opened.
  • You’ve had an unsatisfactory relationship with the card issuer in the past (for example, the card issuer shut down your accounts for violating their rules or for suspicious activity).
  • You don’t have any preexisting relationship with the card issuer, such as a bank account with them.

With most of those reasons, there’s at least a chance you can get the denial overturned. However, it’s next to impossible if you were denied due to one of the card issuer’s application rules. Every card issuer has its own rules and limitations, so you’ll want to double check those to see if they’re the reason for your denial.

2. Consider ways to get the denial overturned

You can simply call the card issuer’s reconsideration line and ask them to reevaluate your application, but it also helps to have a strategy in case that doesn’t work. There are several options you can try, depending on why you were denied.

You didn’t qualify for the card due to your credit score or income -- While these denials are tough to overturn, you may have success if you can point out a history of responsible financial habits, such as on-time bill payments and low credit utilization.

The card issuer has already issued you one or more credit cards and doesn’t want to extend you more credit -- Ask if you can decrease the credit limits on your other cards to make room for the new one. This way, you could get the new card and the card issuer wouldn’t need to increase the amount of credit it’s extending to you.

You don’t have a preexisting relationship with the card issuer -- See if you can get the card if you agree to open a bank account or certificate of deposit in the process. This often helps with Bank of America credit cards, in particular.

3. Contact the card issuer

Although reconsideration calls can seem stressful, there’s really not much to them. Here’s what you can expect when you call in:

  1. The representative will explain why you were denied, which you already know.
  2. You ask them to reconsider and present your case. This is a good time to mention anything that presents you as someone who would be a responsible cardholder.
  3. The representative will probably put you on hold to see what they can do, and then come back with a yes or a no.

If you don’t get the result you want, you can always call back another time in hopes of getting a more flexible representative. Some are much more lenient than others, so don’t think that you’re out of luck just because the first one said no.

If all else fails…

Denials don’t always get overturned, and if that’s the case for you, then you have two options.

You could wait about three to six months, and then apply for the same card again (or a different one). That gives you some time to improve your credit score and for any recent credit inquiries to fade into the past.

Or, if you need a credit card right away, you can look for one that's easier to get. Check your credit score (which will be included in your denial letter), see what range it falls under, and choose a card in that range. There are plenty of credit cards for fair credit and for bad credit consumers; it's just a matter of finding one that fits where you're at.