Update 6/19/19: Recent data points all suggest that U.S. bank is no longer combining inquiries.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Warnings & Tips
- 3 How To Apply For Multiple Cards At Once
- 4 Rules For Each Card Issuer
- 5 F.A.Q’s
- 6 Final Thoughts
- 7 Post History
When you apply for a credit card, the card issuer will check your credit report. They rarely look at this credit report manually, but it’s used by scoring algorithms to see how worthy of credit you are (really they are checking your risk as a customer. How likely are you to default or become delinquent?).
When a credit report is pulled to aid in a lending decision (e.g when you apply for a credit card) this is known as a hard inquiry or hard credit pull. A hard inquiry affects your credit score (usually dropping it by 1-5 points for a short period of time, for usually no more than six months. It completely stops affecting your FICO score after a period of twelve months and will only stay on your credit report for up to two years), hard inquiries can also used by card issuers to determine if somebody is chasing sign up bonuses (these people are unlikely to be profitable cardholders) but this is uncommon.
As you can gather, the less hard inquiries you have the better. The problem with this is that credit cards have some juicy sign up bonuses. One of the best ways to maximize the amount of sign up bonuses you get and minimize the amount of hard inquiries you receive is by applying for multiple cards from the same card issuer at the same time. In some cases, card issuers will only do a hard credit inquiry once even if you apply for two or more cards.
Warnings & Tips
Below is a list of card issuers and whether they combine credit pulls or not. Before that a few tips and warnings:
- Find out what credit bureau a card issuer is likely to pull. As well as worrying about which card issuers combine credit pulls, you should also try to spread out your inquiries over all three of the consumer reporting agencies (CRA). Here is how to find out which card issuer will pull which CRA, remember that it varies based on your state.
- Your mileage may vary. Just because a credit card issuer has only pulled once for other people, doesn’t mean the same will happen to you (“past performance is not indicative of future results”).
- You’ll usually be denied at the auto approval stage. When you’re applying for multiple cards, you’ll generally be denied when they make their instant decision. This means you’ll be required to call the reconsideration department, if you don’t feel confident doing then this method is not for you. If you’ve never called the reconsideration department before, read our tips and gain some practice before attempting this. You can view the phone numbers for the different reconsideration departments by clicking here.
- Opening lots of new cards will also drastically reduce your average age of accounts, regardless of how many hard pulls appear on your report. This will negatively affect your FICO score and other credit scoring models.
Remember that hard credit pulls stay on your credit report for a period of two years and affect your FICO score for one full year in a negative manner. Make sure you do your own research and only use these methods when you feel comfortable.
How To Apply For Multiple Cards At Once
- When trying to combine multiple credit pulls, you want your credit card applications to be close together as possible. The closer the applications, the more likely the card issuer will only pull your credit report once. This is because every time they pull your credit they have to pay one of the consumer reporting agencies (or credit bureaus) a fee.
- The easiest way to apply for multiple cards at the same time is by using multiple browsers. The best method is to open a new browser (e.g Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari) and fill in all of your information for all the credit cards you want to apply for, then you can click submit in a rapid succession a few seconds after each other. If you apply earlier in the day you give yourself more time to deal with reconsideration requests.
- Always hit apply for the most important card first. Whichever card you apply for first has the highest chance of receiving an instant approval, so make sure to apply for that card first and then the others in order of important.
- When talking about this people will often use the acronyms 2BM, 3BM or 4BM. The BM stands for browser method, so a 3BM would be three browser method. The number of browsers used is the same as the amount of credit cards the person is applying for. If you see somebody saying “Was successful with my 3BM with chase”, they are saying they applied for three credit cards using three separate browsers and were approved for all three (presumably only with one hard credit pull done).
Sometimes card issuers will not do a second pull as long as you apply the same day, but by using a different browser and applying in rapid succession you should find you have a chance of being instantly approved.
Rules For Each Card Issuer
American Express does combine credit pulls, here are the rules:
- They’ll allow a maximum of one credit card application per day, doesn’t seem to be a limit on charge cards.
- All cards need to be approved in the same day, otherwise multiple pulls will be done (e.g sometimes when you call they’ll say that the application will be reviewed in a few days time. When it’s reviewed another hard pull will be automatically done. You should be able to cancel the second application when doing this if you want to avoid the hard pull).
- Usually will be denied on auto approval, you’ll need to call reconsideration.
- When calling reconsideration only ask for approval for one card at a time.
- You’ll need a valid reason as to why you want each card
- Representatives will often state the system allows only one per day, which is why you only want to deal with one card per call. It’s not hard coded into the system to allow only one approval per day, so just hang up and call again if you have this issue.
- Can mix personal and business applications and it should only result in one pull
Bank of America
Applying for up to two cards at once should result in only one hard pull (you can’t apply for any more than two due to the 2/3/4 rule) Can mix personal and business applications and it should only result in one pull Combining personal & business apps seems to be YMMV, some people have them combined and others don’t. According to this comment, Merrill Lynch applications will also combine.
Update: Recent DP are saying that pulls are not being combined.
Barclay will combine multiple pulls, but some things to consider:
- Possible to do up to three cards at a time, but usually they’ll only auto approve you for one card and approve one more after you call reconsideration
- Barclay is primarily a UK credit card issuer, as such their days are based on GMT. Keep this in mind when making your applications.
- Pulls all three credit bureaus for every application you make.
- Multiple applications will be combined if they are processed on the same day.
Recently, Capital One stopped processing more than one application per six months, rendering moot the issue of combined inquires.
Chase will combine credit pulls, but there are a few rules you need to be mindful of:
- Applications must be received in the same day
- Mixing business and personal applications will result in separate pulls (e.g if you apply for two business cards and one personal, they will pull your credit twice). [Update: Recently, a couple reports indicate that business and personal may be combined, see this Freqentmiler report and this comment.]
- Usually difficult about opening more than three cards in a single month (some representatives state that the limit is two per month, but you should be able to get three). If you run into this problem, ask them to approve one of the cards (the one you want the most) then hang up and call again
- Call and give them the application ID, they might not be able to see your recent approved cards
- Applications stay in the internal system for a period of 30 days, you might be able to use this to get around the three cards in a month rule
- Citi only allows you to apply for a credit card every eight days, but you can apply for one personal and one business on the same day (FrequentMiler). When applying for a personal and business at the same time, the inquiries are not merged due to the fact that the inquiries come from different departments of Citibank (FrequentMiler via personal communication).
- You can have a maximum of two Discover cards and need to have the first one for twelve months before you can apply for the second one so no possibility of merging inquiries.
Update: Reader Electroman applied for the personal and business Club Carlson cards in the same day and the inquiries were merged into one. This means that it should be possible to apply for any two cards from U.S Bank and the inquiries will be merged (e.g personal and business cards are merged). U.S Bank is notoriously difficult for getting approved for even one card, let alone multiples in a day. Remember to freeze your IDA & ARS accounts before applying. Another DP here and another. Amex_Fangirl was told that if you apply within 30 days of the first app they will use the same hard pull. This was then confirmed when only one hard pull showed up for the second application.
Smaller Card Issuers
My partner hates calling reconsideration, what can I do?
You can try to convince them that the pros outweigh the cons and this is how you’re able to generate extra income and travel on the cheap. That being said, some people just don’t feel comfortable calling reconsideration. In that case you can ask your significant other to call and then state that you may speak on their behalf before passing the call onto you.
You can also try a conference call where your significant other is on the phone but doing none of the speaking. Once the card is approved you can also get them to install you as an official proxy, this can be done online at American Express here and via phone for Chase (this won’t give you any power for future reconsideration calls though). I’m not sure about other card issuers, if you have any experience then please let us know in the comments.
This can be a useful way to rack up loyalty points and cash sign up bonuses without damaging your credit too much in the short term, less hard pulls will also look better on your report when applying for credit cards in the future. Doing a 3BM can be somewhat time intensive if you have to hang up and call again multiple times to get approved, but I think it’s worth doing.
Please feel free to share your experiences and recent data points in the comments section below.
Update 5: Added FNBO data.
Update 4: Added more on Citi personal and business
Update 3: Added data points for U.S Bank
Update 2: I have added data on what happens with multiple applications for both Wells Fargo & Capital One.
Update: As numerous people in the comments have pointed out, it’s not actually the credit card issuers combining multiple pulls, it’s credit bureaus. If all of the information matches, the credit bureaus assume this a duplicate entry and delete it. The reason why some inquiries are combined and others aren’t is that credit card issuers won’t necessarily use the same data for each credit card. In this article I’ve still referred to the card issuers doing the combining, but that’s not what happens in reality. Thanks to all of the readers who pointed this out.