When to call and what to say if your credit card application has been denied
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You apply for a credit card, only to hear your request is “pending” – or worse, “denied.”
It may be time to call the reconsideration line.
That’s a number each issuing bank offers specifically for customers who want to challenge their credit card application decision.
However, experts on this topic – generally speaking, those who regularly churn through cards in search of travel points – say it’s best to go into that phone call prepared – with the correct information and the correct frame of mind.
It is possible to turn a “no” to a “yes,” but it’s also possible to flub the conversation and get nothing for your time and effort.
Read on for a primer to reconsideration line calls.
See related: 10 things NOT to do when you apply for a credit card
Decoding what ‘pending application’ means
Sometimes receiving a “pending application” response is a good sign, sometimes not, according to experts.
- If the company promises to get back to you in 7-10 business days, “that’s the message you don’t want to get,” said travel expert and Upon Arriving blogger Daniel Gillaspia. It might mean your application will most likely be turned down, he said.
- If the company says it’ll get back to you in 30 days, “that can be good,” Gillaspia said. “That means the application is in limbo.”
- A message saying you’ll hear from them in two weeks can be promising, he said. “You can expect to get approved.”
Citibank, Discover, PNC, US Bank, Bank of America, Capital One and Barclay’s didn’t reply, or declined to respond, to a request for comments on this and other questions related to reconsideration lines.
In an email response to questions, an American Express representative wrote: “American Express does not have a dedicated ‘reconsideration line,’ but card applicants can call our New Accounts department at the phone number provided on their decision letter to inquire about the status of their card application or ask any questions.”
“For some customers where we are requesting more information for reconsideration, we’ll provide them with a number to call,” wrote Lauren Ryan, communications director at Chase Card Services, in an email response to questions. “Some examples of additional documentation could include Social Security card, proof of address and proof of date of birth.”
When to call the reconsideration line
Unless you’ve received a letter from the issuer asking you to contact them during the application review process, “wait until you’re denied entirely before calling,” Gillaspia said. “Sometimes they just want to verify your identification.”
The official denial letter should list the reason you’ve been denied, said Upgraded Points blogger Alex Miller.
If you’re turned down due to a low credit score, the card issuer must send you an adverse action notice, Miller said. That is the formal rejection you should, by law, receive when your credit card application is denied.
If it’s another reason, such as your income or age, they will usually tell you that as well.
Before you call the reconsideration line, prepare
These are some of the steps you can take to be ready to make the call.
- Know your credit score and your relationship with the issuing bank, said David Streisand, who blogs at WiseFlys.
Say you’re applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Streisand said, but you already have another Chase card in your wallet.
Look up your credit score and do a little research to figure out how long you’ve had your existing Chase credit card. “Then you can say, ‘I have a score of 700 and had a card with you for five years,’” he said. Specifics help your case.
- Look at the reason the issuer gives in the letter, and be ready to make your case.
Miller, writing in an email, gave this example: “Maybe you have a negative tick on your credit report due to a late payment from a couple of years ago. On the phone, you can politely explain why the payment was late. Then you can confidently lay out your case for being a more responsible cardholder since.”
Perhaps you mistakenly recorded your income as $700 per month rather than $7,000, he wrote. Or the bank turned you down because of a recent spate of hard inquiries on your credit report. These are the kinds of things that can be explained away, he said.
- On the other hand, if you’re pretty far off the mark to begin with – if you’re applying for a top-tier card but you have a low credit score, for instance – “there’s not a whole lot you can do to overturn the issuer’s decision,” he said.
What to say in a reconsideration call if…
- You’ve already got a wallet full of cards, and a bank still denies you a new one. “I would bring up … my great credit score and history of paying on time all the time,” Streisand said. “I would say, ‘If you look at my credit report, my payment history is perfect.’”
- You’ve applied for two cards one after the other, and was denied for the second one. First off, try to have some patience: Put at least 90 days between one application and another, Gillaspia said. But if you really need both cards at once, don’t be afraid to call the reconsideration line, he said. No need to bring up the previous card, but if it’s mentioned, be ready to explain yourself.
- You’ve been denied your first credit card application. “I would negotiate the lowest credit limit possible to earn the trust of the bank,” Streisand said. If you already have a checking or savings account with that bank, you could point that out as well, Gillaspia said. But know that if you’re applying for a premium card, you may just have shot too high this first time around.
What NOT to say in a reconsideration call
“What I would never say is, ‘Oh, I really want the sign-up bonus on this card,’” Gillaspia said. You might as well just announce to the issuer that you intend to toss the card aside after the requisite bonus spend – not the kind of profitable customer banks want.
“They’ll think you’re trying to take advantage of the system,” Streisand said. “It shows… you’re just in it for the short term, and therefore may be a risk to be approved.”
Instead, do this. “From the get-go, I try to be really patient and polite,” Gillaspia said. “Some people get really nervous, but if you’re calm it usually gets off to a good start.” And even if the questions get intrusive, keep your cool.
“It’s easy to get flustered and aggravated when it comes to money matters, but keeping a level head is the best way to ensure a reconsideration,” Miller wrote.
See related: How to protect your credit score when churning rewards cards
What I would never say is, ‘Oh, I really want the sign-up bonus on this card.’ You might as well just announce to the issuer that you intend to toss the card aside after the requisite bonus spend.
If they still say no, call back
No, really. Call back.
“There was one card I applied for and it came up denied,” Streisand recalled. “I called four times, and on the fourth time I got approved.”
He said the same thing to the first three representatives, and each time, it was a no-go. “Then the fourth one,” he said, “she was in such a good mood when I got her on the phone, and I kept that going; I was friendly, asked her how her day was – that kind of thing.” She asked the same questions as the others had – and there was a pause. Streisand waited, and then “she decided to approve me,” he said.
Some banks, Gillaspia said, will keep a log of your calls. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, I see you just called five hours ago,’” he said. “So, have a specific reason for clarification.”
For instance, if you were denied for having too many inquiries on your report. When you call back, Gillaspia said, you could say something like you wanted to make sure the bank knew you were applying for this card because you wanted to segregate your business expenses.
If you still can’t get a yes, maybe it is time to admit defeat – for now. Try again in 90 days or later, Gillaspia said. This is a game in which persistence pays off.
“A lot of people don’t even know about reconsideration lines,” he said. “In my experience, they’ve been very effective.”
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