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How long should you wait in between credit card applications?

author: Zubin Kavarana

By Zubin Kavarana


Generally, it’s best to leave at least three months in between credit card applications. If you can wait longer than six months - even better. But why?

When you apply for a credit card, lenders look at your credit file to help them decide if you're creditworthy. If they perform a hard search, it'll be recorded on your file for other lenders to see.

Applying for too many credit cards in a short space of time can indicate to lenders that you’re “credit hungry” or struggling to manage your finances. Hard searches stay on your credit file for 12 months.

If you’re thinking of applying for a credit card, use an eligibility checker first to get an indication of whether or not you’d be accepted. Eligibility checkers only perform a soft search. Soft searches are a more basic check of your file, that are only visible to you and won’t affect your credit score.

However, eligibility checkers won’t give you a definite “yes” or “no”, and when you come to complete a full application, you'll then be subject to a hard search that will be recorded on your credit file.

What happens if I apply again within three months?

Applying again within three months will leave another hard search on your credit file, adding to the previous searches and potentially, further decreasing the likelihood of you being approved.

What should I do if my application gets declined?

If your credit application gets declined, then you should check your credit report to see if you can identify why.

Some common reasons credit applications get declined include:

  • your current address isn’t up to date
  • you have one or more missed payments on your credit file
  • you’re financially associated with someone else who has bad credit
  • you have high credit utilisation, and may not be able to afford additional repayments.

If checking your credit report leaves you no closer to working out why your application was declined, it may simply be the case that you didn't fit the profile the lender was looking for. For example, some lenders may want someone who has a specific income.

Once you’ve checked your credit file, you can take action to build your score. It could take a while to see your score improve, so  try to allow plenty of time before you apply for credit again.

When you’re ready to re-apply, it’s a good idea to re-check your credit file to make sure your good work is reflected there, and you’re in a stronger position to avoid rejection.

Check your credit file with each credit reference agency: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can check your credit report for free with our member-only platform, CredAbility.

How to improve your score

There are a few things you can do to improve your credit score, such as:

  • making sure you’re on the electoral roll at your current address
  • continuing to make regular payments on existing credit agreements
  • addressing any errors on your credit file
  • disassociating from anyone you used to have a joint financial account with - if it’s closed
  • keeping your credit utilisation around 25-30%
  • checking your credit file regularly.

Read more about improving your credit score. 

Credit builder products

When you're ready to reapply for a credit card, you could consider a credit builder card if your score is still low or your credit history isn’t great. Credit builder credit cards help people with bad credit improve their score.

A credit builder card is only helpful if you use it correctly. You’ll need to make your payments on time, every time to improve your score. Continuously doing this will help build a positive picture of yourself to a future lender. If you miss any payments, your score will be adversely affected.

Credit builder cards usually have high-interest rates and low credit limits. Check they’re right for you before applying and that you can afford the repayments every month.

Remember, if you are struggling with debt, you can access free financial advice and support from a professional debt specialist. Visit Money WellnessStepChangeCitizens AdviceNational Debtline, or Money Helper to find out more.

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

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