Ask an Expert: I Have Great Credit. Why Did a Credit Card Reject Me?

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This reader has a high credit score, but a recent card application was rejected. What's going on here?

A Money Talks News reader recently wrote with this question:

I love your column. It’s such a great resource, especially for someone like me who uses credit cards for rewards benefits, carries zero balances, and pays in full every month.

A very disturbing thing happened to me this week. I take care of all the finances for the family. Since we’ve been married, I’ve gotten all of our cards down to a zero balance with the exception of one, which I have at zero percent interest until next April, at which point it will be paid off.

We both received pre-approved offers from Barclays World Card in the mail. My wife’s offer was 10,000 points for signing up, and then another 10,000 points after spending $750 within the first 90 days. She applied and got approved instantly for a $10,000 credit line.

I also received an offer. It was 5,000 points for signing up. That’s it. When I called them, they said, “well you can use your wife’s pre-approval number to try and get the other offer.”  I did just that, and was denied!  My credit score is 771 currently for all credit bureaus. This truly bothers me. I have probably 30 credit cards, all at zero balance, with the exception of one, which I use for everyday purchases and pay off in full each month.

Why would my wife, who also has a large number of credit cards open like me, with a lower credit score, get approved for better offers than I would? And this isn’t the first time this has happened.

Any insight as to why my wife got the better deal and I didn’t? I didn’t apply for the 5,000 point deal, because I’m still waiting on the 10,000 deal. I’m waiting until I get the letter in the mail, will take your advice, call them up and talk to someone about it.

This type of thing really bothers me, because I always take my finances seriously, and am responsible with my money.

Thanks very much, Jason!

My response

First, I love the fact that Bob is always paying his balances in full and on time (at least the ones that are incurring interest). But while there are many laws that the credit card industry must abide by, none of them say their actions have to make sense.

In this case, Bob got one offer, but his wife got another. Worse, his offer wasn’t as good as hers. And although there is no way to be perfectly sure what the bank was thinking when they rejected him, I have an idea: Holding 30 credit cards might make Barclays uncomfortable. They’re probably legitimately concerned about the possibility Bob could use all that credit and be unable to repay it.

Of course, that’s not what he’s up to – Bob’s opening new lines of credit to get sign-up bonuses.  Nothing wrong with that, as long as he always pays his balances in full and on time.  But you can’t blame Barclays for being a bit concerned.

Bob should keep the best cards for the long term while canceling the others after one year. By holding 5-10 cards, he’ll keep his credit utilization low while not showing too many open lines of credit.  That will make him more likely to be accepted for new cards and receive the best sign-up bonuses.

As Bob cancels unused cards, he should do it over a period of several months, rather than all at once, to minimize the impact on his credit score.

Finally, don’t worry about a measly 5,000-10,000 bonus points when there are plenty of great products like the Ink Bold from Chase that offer 50,000 points as a sign-up bonus.

Good luck, Bob, and keep reading!

Note: While we attempt to be completely objective when reporting on credit cards, this site may be compensated by issuers when a reader applies for a credit card through the links within credit card stories or on our credit card search page.

Stacy Johnson

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