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Closing credit cards is incredibly final. After all, as soon as you give the green light, you will lose access to that line of credit and all of the other benefits included in the card. While closing the card is technically irreversible, that doesn’t mean you will never be able to get that card again. In most cases, you can apply for the same card again in the future as a new account.
Why you might consider reapplying for a card
It might seem crazy to reopen a card that you once considered insufficiently good to hold. However, circumstances change. The card redesign included perks, reward structures, and annual fees, which makes a previously inferior card a great card again. Competition is fierce right now, which is good news for cardholders: previously unfathomable earning rates and specialized statement credits are sweetening the deal on many cards.
Plus, life changes even faster than maps. It is normal for your drinking habits to change over the course of your life. Things like buying a house, moving abroad, taking a new job, or changing your family composition can all change the types of benefits and credits that are important to you.
If you’re drawn to a card that didn’t work before, don’t automatically ignore it. There is nothing wrong with reassessing your needs to see if this is the right solution now.
The new request is treated as the opening of a new account
An important thing to keep in mind is that you will have to open a card from scratch, even if you were a former cardholder. You can’t just call the card issuer and ask them to activate your old account. You will need to start a new application and go through the same approval process as anyone else.
When you reapply, being a former cardholder in good standing is only part of the equation. The same decision factors still apply and may include your current income, unpaid debts and credit rating as well as the number of recent inquiries or open accounts you already have.
Are return cardholders eligible for card benefits?
While all cardholders, whether you’ve had the card before or not, have access to ongoing benefits, the welcome bonus is another story. Many cards attract customers with generous one-time account opening bonuses, but these bonuses are exactly that: Once offers. There are a few exceptions, which we’ll describe below, but if you re-apply for the card, you must do so for the current card functionality.
It can be frustrating not to qualify for a welcome bonus, but keep an eye out for the bright side. As a Returning Cardholder, you will still receive the vast majority of the card’s benefits. On rewards cards, you will always earn points, miles or cash back with every purchase (including in bonus categories). Airline cards often offer perks like free checked baggage, and hotel cards often offer elite status or even free night certificates with your card’s annual renewal. Lifestyle benefits, such as monthly credits for restaurant services or digital streaming, also apply.
Welcome bonus policies by issuer
One of the more stringent card issuers, American Express typically only offers a welcome bonus once per person per card and for life. Anecdotally, some customers have reported that Amex only looks back seven years to see if you were a former cardholder, so if that sounds like an old story to you, you might be in luck.
If you don’t remember if you had that specific card, American Express will verify your eligibility for the bonus during the application process but before you officially submit the application. Customers who are not eligible for the bonus will see a pop-up message and have the option to withdraw their request before their credit check is completed.
Bank of America
Bank of America doesn’t necessarily restrict access to welcome bonuses, but many cards require a 24-month waiting period before reapplying for the card. If a card you previously closed is ringing correctly again, you might need to be patient before trying again.
Requirements vary by card with Barclays, which means you will need to carefully review the terms and conditions before applying if you hope to earn a welcome bonus again. However, most cards clearly state “you may not be eligible for this offer if you currently have or have had an account with us under this program”.
A capital letter
Like Barclays, most Capital One cards specify that former account holders are not officially eligible for welcome bonuses on its cards.
Chase is confusing things a bit by grouping several of his credit cards into families and considering your history across the segment before deciding whether or not to give yourself a welcome bonus.
For example, Chase has three types of Southwest Airlines personal credit cards and being a former (or current) holder of one of these cards may restrict your ability to earn the bonus on another Southwest card. Likewise, several Marriott cards are bundled together, as is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Fortunately, you are not left out of welcome bonuses forever. Many cards allow you to qualify again for the bonus as long as the original card is closed and at least 24 months have passed since you initially received the bonus from the cardholder. For the Sapphire card collection you will have to wait more than 48 months.
Citi also consolidates its cards and considers the entire product family while determining if you are eligible for a welcome bonus. Generally, all co-branded cards for a travel partner (such as American Airlines Advantage cards) are considered to be part of the same family.
Citi’s popular line of thank you cards is also considered one family. For the purposes of welcome bonuses, the Citi Rewards + ® card, the Citi Premier® card and the Citi Prestige® card* are all grouped together.
Like Chase, you’re not limited to just one welcome bonus per life, although you must wait at least 24 months after opening or closing all cards in that family.
Similar to other card issuers, Wells Fargo does not promise eligibility for the welcome bonus for former cardholders unless it has been some time since you earned the bonus. The terms and conditions of most of their cards specify a waiting period of at least 15 months before you are eligible for a second bonus.
Closure and new card application in relation to the continued holding of a card
As you can see, closing a card can impact your ability to earn a welcome bonus a second time, sometimes for a whole family of similar cards and not just for the individual card you held. Closing cards can also affect your credit score and other factors on your credit report. Canceling an account should therefore always be a carefully considered decision and not an impulsive decision.
Although you can request a new card, opening and closing it repeatedly is not the best solution. Think about your options before applying for a card to determine if it is right for you in the long run, and consider all of your options before closing a card in the future. Especially for cards with low or no annual fees, you may want to keep a card open rather than closing it and hoping to reapply in the future. For more expensive cards, a product change can be a good way to keep your account open while reducing your out-of-pocket fees.
Find the best credit cards for 2021
No credit card is the best option for every family, every purchase or every budget. We’ve selected the best credit cards in a way designed to be most useful to the widest variety of readers.
As your personal circumstances and lifestyle change, the cards you previously held and canceled may become good products for you again. If so, you are generally not unlucky. Re-applying for a credit card is essentially starting over (and sometimes without the advertised welcome bonus). Yet sometimes the right card with the right rewards, credits, perks, and other features can make a great app.