Applying for new credit can definitely negatively affect your credit score. The trick is to be judicious about how many hard inquiries you generate.
When it comes time to apply for a new credit card, you might wonder if it will impact your credit score. The answer isn’t so black and white, so let’s take a closer look at how it can affect your score.
How applying for a credit card can hurt your score
Applying for a new credit card can indeed hurt your credit score. According to FICO, a hard inquiry — when a card issuer pulls your credit after you apply — can lower your score by five points or fewer. However, the impact is temporary. Hard pulls stay on your credit report for two years, but the effect they have on your credit score wears off after one year, according to national credit bureau Experian.
Additionally, new credit is among the five most important factors in calculating your FICO score, though it only counts for 10 percent. So, new credit card accounts will have less of an effect than a truly negative item, like a missed credit card payment or a maxed-out card.
Though the impact of a single card application can be small, too many of them in a short amount of time can add up to a significant loss. And if you happen to be in the process of applying for a mortgage, hard inquiries from new credit card applications can give your prospective lender the impression that you’re about to overextend yourself — or go on a credit card spending spree.
How does being denied a credit card impact your score?
It’s understandable if you’re interested in shopping around for the best deal and want to see who will approve you for a card, but think twice before going on an application binge. An analysis of your new credit makes up 10 percent of your score — according to FICO — and multiple credit inquiries drag that score down.
Applying for multiple credit cards can send a message to lenders that you either got denied for some reason or that you opened a bunch of accounts, which can signal financial problems. In any event, applying for multiple cards signals risky financial behavior.
So, make sure you apply for new credit cards strategically. If you get rejected once, figure out why before you apply again. If you have mediocre credit and have your heart set on a high-end card, it’s not going to happen. Either settle for the card that fits your credit profile or work to improve your credit so you do qualify.
To get an idea of what type of card you’re likely to be approved for instead of applying for multiple cards, check your score and pull your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Once you have that information, you’ll have a better idea of the cards for which you’ll likely be approved.
How to improve your chances of approval
To increase your odds of being approved for a card — so you don’t waste those hard inquiries on failed credit applications — take the following steps to improve your credit score and become as creditworthy as possible:
- Make on-time payments. Your payment history accounts for the biggest chunk of your credit score, weighing in at 35 percent. The more consistently you make on-time payments, the more your credit score can improve.
- Keep old credit cards open. Canceling accounts in good standing with other companies can shorten the length of credit history on your credit report (which accounts for 15 percent of your score) and also reduce your total available credit, which could drive up your utilization ratio if you’re carrying big balances on other cards.
- Check your credit report for errors. Mistakes or fraud could be hurting your credit score. It’s important to review your credit report for errors so you can dispute any you find and ideally get them removed. If you suspect that the problem is more serious — such as another person trying to steal your identity — you may want to consider installing a credit freeze. That prevents anyone — including you or someone pretending to be you — from opening new accounts in your name.
If you’re shopping around for a new credit card, it’s important to balance your spending needs with your current credit situation. Remember that an inordinate amount of hard inquiries — whether or not you’re approved for all the cards you apply for — can damage your credit and leave you with a card that doesn’t suit your purchasing habits.
But the right card can help you save on your everyday spending or build up rewards to put toward a trip or a big purchase. Getting it right the first time will minimize the impact on your credit.