How Having Too Many Credit Card Applications Might Backfire On You

It’s quick and easy to apply for a credit card, but that doesn’t mean you should submit a lot of applications in a short amount of time.

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While the idiom “cast your net wide” may prove a wise strategy in some situations, it’s not the case when it comes to applying for credit cards. If you submit a lot of applications in a short amount of time, it can actually have a detrimental effect on your credit report. In turn, this could hurt your chances of a successful application.

This guide explains the relationship between credit card applications and your credit report, teaches you how to navigate the credit card application process, and offers other tips for optimising your credit score to increase your chances of approval.

Credit card applications and your credit report

Each time you submit a credit card application, the credit card provider assesses your application by requesting a copy of your credit report. This is called a “hard credit inquiry” and is recorded on your report for up to two years, regardless of the outcome (which is not recorded). Hard inquiries aren’t limited to credit card applications; you get one every time you apply for any kind of loan, mortgage or utility credit. Each hard inquiry can take a few points off your credit score.

While occasional hard enquiries are unlikely to hurt your credit score, imagine having a bunch of them together on your report within a short period of time. To a lender, it could look as if you’re desperate for credit, and definitely raises a red flag when they are assessing your application.

That said, credit providers consider a lot more factors than merely the hard inquiries on your credit file. They also look at any other black marks such as late payments, payment defaults, court writs or bankruptcies. Plus, if you have any positive payment history on your file (such as details of a credit account you always pay on time), this could work in your favour.

What constitutes too many credit card applications?

There is no definitive answer to this question, because it depends on a number of factors. For example, if your credit history is stellar, you can probably afford to have a few more hard inquiries on your file than someone whose credit history is already shaky and riddled with black marks.

Other factors lenders consider when you apply for a card. These include:

  • Your income. A high and stable income results in a lower risk for lenders. It also means you have a greater potential ability to make repayments on one or more credit accounts.
  • Your existing credit accounts. Depending on your income, if you already have a few credit accounts and a moderate income, you may not qualify for any more credit.
  • Your existing debts. If you are already steeped in debt, no creditor would consider you a safe borrower.
  • Potential future debt. Having a number of new credit card applications could lead to greater potential liabilities or debts. Lenders could weigh this factor against your income and other current financial details. If this is the case, you are less likely to be approved if you’ve applied for multiple cards in a short amount of time.

Different circumstances, different application outcomes

Antonio and Sebastian both work as sales reps and both earn $60,000 p.a. They both apply for the same credit card, but only Antonio is approved. Why? Sebastian had applied for three credit cards a week earlier. He also had two existing cards with combined credit limits of $40,000. Based on this information, the lender determined that he would not be able to service all the new cards if they were approved.

Antonio, on the other hand, had one existing card with a credit limit of $5,000. He didn’t apply for any other cards, so the lender determined that he would have sufficient income to manage both new cards.

How to ensure you get approved and avoid over-applying

Here are some steps you can take to avoid over-applying:

  • Compare credit cards. It is critical to research what cards are on offer, and to compare your options before settling on the credit card that most closely suits your needs. You should also check the eligibility requirements for each card that you compare, to make sure you find the card that is most compatible with your financial situation. See our Credit Card Guide for help.
  • Apply for just one card. Based on your careful study and comparison, pick the card that best suits your financial circumstances and needs, and only apply for that one card. You should provide as much detail as possible in your application because this will improve your chances of success. See our Credit Card Applications Tips to help you get an approval.
  • Wait for an outcome. These days most providers offer an outcome in minutes when you apply online. For other applications (i.e. written or over the phone), it may take a few business days. No matter how long the wait, it is important to hold off applying for other products until you have an outcome.
  • If you are approved at this stage, you shouldn’t need to apply for another card. If your application is not approved, follow these additional steps:
  • Contact the provider. Some providers may be more than happy to explain why your application was declined. Others may refuse, but it’s worth asking to see if you can find out why. This will be helpful for subsequent applications.
  • Check your credit history. You are entitled to one free credit report a year, which you should regularly request, because mistakes are sometimes made on credit reports. When you receive it, read it through carefully, looking out for errors that may need fixing. Credit agencies will investigate the matter for you if you report a mistake. Even if there are no mistakes in your report and those black marks are meant to be there, actually viewing your credit report can motivate you to work on improving it for the future.

4 tips to improve your credit score

Practice these tips to protect your credit history and increase your credit score:
couple with laptop in bed

  1. Make payments on time. Since March 2014, credit reports include repayment history such as payment due dates, whether you made or missed those payments, as well as when you made the missed payments. This means paying your bills on time can work in your favour, while missing them works against you.
  2. Pay down existing debt. Nip debt in the bud before it rears its ugly head in your credit report. Pay off your credit card debt using our 10 quick tips.
  3. Close credit accounts you don’t use. Having dormant accounts not only lowers your chances of getting a new account that you really need, it may also be costing you administrative fees. There’s no time like the present to close them. Note this also includes any joint accounts you no longer use that are still active (i.e. share-house utility accounts).
  4. Don't apply too often. Remember that any and all of your applications for credit are recorded on your credit file as hard inquiries, including all types of loans. If you’ve already conservatively applied for two or three credit cards in succession and been rejected for them all, take a break from applying to give your credit report some space. Also take the time to figure out why you’re getting rejected in the first place. Get hold of your credit report and analyse it, then improve it with the tips we’ve provided.

Before applying, always make sure you’ve carefully compared cards on the market and chosen the most suitable one for your needs and spending habits. Make only one application at a time to improve your chances of approval and to protect your credit score.

Images: Shutterstock

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8 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    AidanFebruary 4, 2019


    I have recently been declined credit, I have done a credit report and on the phone discussed my credit history with Equifax. I have no outstanding debt, no black marks against my credit file. Equifax said I have made too many applications. I am self employed. What can I do to get finance?


    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniFebruary 10, 2019Staff

      Hi Aidan,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Sorry to hear that. Having many credit enquiries in your credit history over a short time period can have a negative impact on your credit score.

      Please note that the credit card application process can be unpredictable and overwhelming. Lenders basically review your application once you submitted that and they set their lending criteria to help them decide if your credit card application is approved or not. You may use this page as guide on how to get your credit card application approved.

      As per this page, in order to qualify for credit, a self-employed person is often required to present 2 years financials, prepared by an accountant, and sometimes even BAS records to verify their contract income.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


  2. Default Gravatar
    RamNovember 18, 2018

    I was doing some research here and filled in the details on a few different cards (to understand the process and details being asked), but didn’t end up submitting or actually requesting for the card. Does this also show up as an inquiry for a credit?

    If yes, that seems silly as I haven’t actually completed the application and have neither been accepted nor rejected for any of the applications.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniNovember 18, 2018Staff

      Hi Ram,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Since it’s not submitted, it is not count as a credit enquiry.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


  3. Default Gravatar
    SchneurJanuary 22, 2018

    Hey there! So I was hoping to do a balance transfer of 8000 but was only conditionally approved for 4 as I let them decide. Is it a bad idea to apply for another card for the other 4?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanFebruary 22, 2018Staff

      Hi Zal, thanks for your inquiry!

      If you have been conditionally approved for four credit cards that is quite impressive. Applying for a fifth card could be risky since banks can see the first four applications you have placed.



  4. Default Gravatar
    VivAugust 1, 2017


    My credit score seems to be below 500 I have never missed any payments or any bankruptcy.

    On the other hand my wife has over 600 credit score. We both recently arrived to Sydney I helped her open her bank account.

    Ironically, she is not earning much(Less than 6000 net since last 3 months) and has only one mobile bill to her name.

    For me, I am on a permanent job with over 100K+ salary, drawing a monthly compensation of $6300, having rental contact of $410/week, Mobile bill of $108, Foxtel connection, Power connection. I am holding bank account for last 4.5 years in Australia.

    I was in Sydney for an year between 2013 and 2014 but left my bank account with few periodic transaction while I was away. Ensured my bank account was intact when I was away.

    I really don’t understand how come my credit score is lesser than my wife? Despite me earning more, spending and saving more than her?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JhezAugust 1, 2017Staff

      Hi Viv,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You may want to request a credit report to better understand why you got that certain score. Here’s a page where you can access your free credit report. I hope this helps.


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Updated January 18th, 2020
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate Annual fee
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0% for 12 months, reverts to 19.99% p.a.
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Compare up to 4 providers

* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

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