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When Is the Best Time to Apply For Credit Cards? And the Worst


How often should you apply for a credit card? Technically, you can do so any time you like. But each new inquiry can decrease your credit score by a few points, so it’s better to try to get a credit card when it’s a genuine need.

With that in mind, here are six examples of the best time to apply for credit cards.

1. You have good credit

A good credit score, meaning 670 or better on the FICO® scoring scale, can put you in a prime position to apply for a new credit card. Why? Because a higher credit score can help you unlock better card options.¹

Premium credit cards can offer benefits like:

  • Higher reward rates on purchases
  • Generous introductory bonuses
  • Exclusive benefits or features, like account anniversary reward bonuses or travel perks

Of course, it’s only worth applying for a new credit card if you plan to use those benefits. Note that better rewards or benefits can mean a higher annual fee.

2. Building or rebuilding credit

If you’re in credit-building mode, a new credit card could help. Getting a new credit card can help you recover your credit score if you’re:

You may need to start with a secured card first to rebuild credit. Secured cards typically require a cash deposit to open. But once you make a certain number of on-time payments, the card issuer may convert you to an unsecured card.²

If you’re a student, you may look into student card options or even store credit cards. These may offer an easier entry point to building credit if you’re starting from scratch and don’t have much of a credit history yet.

3. When welcome bonuses are high

Credit card companies can offer introductory bonuses to encourage people to apply for their cards. A sizable bonus offer could factor into your decision-making if you’re wondering when to get a new credit card.

Here are a few details to remember when comparing credit card bonuses:

  • There’s usually a spending requirement you’re expected to meet to qualify for the bonus.
  • You may be ineligible for a new account bonus if you already have a credit card with the same issuer.
  • Applying for more than one card to take advantage of different bonus offers can result in multiple hard inquiries on your credit reports.

The minimum spending requirement may be in the $1,000 to $3,000 range and you might have 90 days to meet it. Review the specifics to make sure it’s realistic based on how you usually spend.

4. You have a balance with a high APR

Getting a new credit card could be a smart option to consolidate high-interest balances. Balance transfer cards let you combine multiple debts at a low or 0% APR for a set period.

You’ll pay no interest if you pay the balance in full before the promotional period ends. Depending on the card, the promotional rate may extend for six to 21 months.³

Balance transfer offers can save you money if you’re disciplined about paying the balance off before the regular APR kicks in. If you’re looking for a balance transfer card, remember to check any fees you might pay to move balances around.

5. You are about to make a big purchase

Paying for wedding expenses, buying furniture, planning a major home renovation – these can all cost quite a bit of money. Using a credit card to cover large purchases in those kinds of situations may be preferable if you:

  1. Don’t have the cash to pay or don’t want to drain your cash reserves.
  2. Would like to earn some rewards for what you spend.
  3. Are taking advantage of a card that offers a 0% APR on purchases for a set time.

If you’re planning to get a new credit card with a 0% APR offer, review your budget to make sure you can pay the balance off before the promotional period ends.

6. To repair damaged credit

Credit scores can drop for a variety of reasons and getting a new credit card could help you repair some of the damage. Again, the best ways to repair credit include making on-time payments and maintaining low balances on your cards.

Here are some examples of when you might apply for a new credit card to repair your credit.

  • You’ve recently gotten divorced and you’re trying to reestablish a positive credit history in your name only.
  • You filed for bankruptcy to get rid of medical bills you couldn’t pay after a major illness and your score took a major hit because of it.
  • You defaulted on a student loan but have gotten back on track with payments and want to work on improving your credit responsibly.

Certain credit cards are specifically geared toward people who want to repair score damage. Checking your credit scores can help you narrow down which cards you’re most likely to qualify for.

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