When is the Best Time to Apply for a Credit Card?

Like many things in life, timing is everything. Applying for a credit card is no different. Whether you are applying for your first credit card, making a large purchase or wanting to add another card to your wallet, knowing when to apply for a credit card is important. Let’s find out some good times to apply for a credit card, as well as times you may want to avoid applying for one.

When to Apply for a Credit Card

If you’re trying to decide when to apply for a credit card, consider your goals with the card. This will help you determine if the time is right for you to apply. Here’s what you need to know when applying for credit cards.

When you Want to Build Your Credit

Getting a credit card can be a good first step, but using your available credit responsibly is always key. Paying your monthly bills on time, staying below your credit limit, and having a lengthy credit history are factors that contribute to a good credit score. Credit scores allow card issuers to see how financially responsible you are – and they are typically used by issuers when deciding to approve your application for a credit card and what interest rates to offer you.

When You’re Planning a Big Purchase

Consider applying for a credit card before making a big purchase if you are able to pay off the credit card bill in full and on time to avoid interest. Some credit cards offer rewards such as points and miles on purchases, which can add up when making a big purchase.
Some new card credits also have a low or 0% introductory APR period on purchases. If you make a large purchase and pay it off during the introductory period, you could pay little or no interest on that purchase as long as you make any minimum payments by the due date each month.

Additionally, some credit cards offer bonus points or miles after spending a certain amount within a period of time after opening the card account. The Citi Premier ® Card, for example, currently has such an offer to earn bonus points.

To Transfer High-Interest Debt

When debt has a high-interest rate, it can quickly become hard to manage. If you’re struggling with high-interest rates or making multiple monthly card payments, consider consolidating credit card debt into fewer payments. One solution is to consider applying for a new credit card that offers low introductory APR on balance transfers for a period of time, so that you can transfer your debt to that other card. However, if you transfer a balance to a new credit card that does not have a 0% introductory APR on purchases, interest will be charged on your purchases unless your entire balance, including any balance transfers, is paid by the due date each month. For this reason, it’s a good idea to apply for a credit card like the Citi Simplicity® Card that offers low introductory APR on both balance transfers as well as purchases for periods of time and try to pay off the balances before those periods end.

If You’re Pre-Selected or Pre-Qualified for a Credit Card

If you are pre-selected for a credit card offer, it means the issuer has determined you meet some eligibility criteria for that credit card.

Though this is not a guarantee that you’ll actually be approved for the credit card, it’s a sign in your favor. If you’ve been thinking about getting a credit card, check your mail for these types of offers, as they show that the issuer is interested in extending you a credit card.  If you are actively looking for a new credit card, you can also use Citi’s website to see if you’re pre-qualified for a card.

When to Wait to Apply for a Credit Card

Though there are many good reasons to apply for a credit card, there are also good reasons to wait. Some situations call for holding off on applying for a new credit card because doing so can temporarily have a negative impact on your credit score and make it harder to get other lines of credit. Below, we’ll take a look at a few of these situations.

When Applying for a Mortgage or a Loan

If you are applying for a loan or mortgage, it may not be a good time to also apply for a credit card depending on your individual financial circumstances, because each of these applications can involve a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries might cause a temporary decrease in your credit score.

When You’re Having Trouble Budgeting

If you’re having difficulty managing expenses, then you may want to wait on applying for a credit card. Credit cards are meant to be paid off by a monthly due date to avoid interest. If you are unable to pay the entire statement balance each month by the due date, you should at least make the minimum payment due or you could be subject to higherpenalty APRs, late fees, and a lowered credit score.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long should you wait between applications for new credit cards?

How long to wait between applications will depend on the specific details of your situation. One thing you can do is check your credit score to see if it has rebounded from the last hard inquiry performed when you applied for your last credit card. However, a good rule of thumb is to wait at least 90 days, and it’s even better if you could wait a full six months.

2. Does applying for a new credit card hurt your credit score?

Applying for a credit card involves a hard credit inquiry, which can cause a temporary decrease in your credit score. For this reason, you should avoid submitting several card applications in a short period of time.

3. Is it good to get a credit card as a young adult?

It’s a good idea to start building credit early if you’re financially capable. If you are able to use a credit card responsibly, including paying off the statement balance on time each month to avoid interest, a credit card could help start you on the path of building credit. You generally must be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card.

Disclosure: This article is for educational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and is not a substitute for professional advice. It does not indicate the availability of any Citi product or service. For advice about your specific circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.

Additional Resources

  • Utilize these resources to help you assess your current finances & plan for the future.

  • Learn how FICO® Scores are determined, why they matter and more.

  • Review financial terms & definitions to help you better understand credit & finances.