If You Apply for a Credit Card, Do You Have to Accept It?

If you apply for a credit card but then change your mind you have a couple of options. 

You can try to cancel the application and change the card to a different one. Close the account altogether, or just keep the card and not use it.  

Canceling the application will likely be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you are stuck with the card. 

Erika Taught Me

  • Credit card approvals generally happen very quickly and you may not have time to cancel your application once submitted.
  • If you no longer want a new credit card, you can request a product change to a different card, cancel the card, or keep it and only use it occasionally.
  • If you cancel the credit card, there may be a temporary impact on your credit score.
  • Applying for and quickly canceling a lot of credit cards in a short time can be a red flag to issuers.

If you apply for a credit card, do you have to accept it?

When you apply for a credit card, it doesn’t obligate you to accept it, but application decisions are sometimes made very quickly — even instantly — so you may not have time to cancel it.

Once credit card approval comes through, the account is immediately activated. You don’t get another chance to accept or deny the card. Filling out the application was your acceptance of the account if approved. 

But that doesn’t mean you are stuck with that credit card forever. You have two options — cancel the credit card application or close the new account.

How to cancel a credit card application

If your application is still pending you have a chance. Contact the credit card issuer and ask if they can cancel your application.

The customer service representative may or may not be able to assist you. This depends entirely on how quickly they process applications and the credit card issuer's specific policies. But calling and asking is likely your best bet. 

If they can’t cancel the credit card application, ask if they can change the credit account to a different card. When the new credit card you applied for charges an annual fee you may be charged that fee on day one of the account before you have a chance to close it.

Some customer service can change the application to a card with no annual fee. You will have a chance to decide what you want to do before it costs you anything.

How to cancel a credit card you got approved for

If you get approved for a new credit card you don’t want, you can close the account. Closing the account is just like closing any other credit card.

Call the credit card issuer and request the account be closed. If you were charged an annual fee, request a credit for that amount. You may be expected to pay it but asking won’t hurt anything and it may save you a few hundred dollars. 

Instead of closing the account, consider changing it to a different credit card.

If the reason you no longer want this card is because of a specific feature or term, ask the customer service representative to suggest a card without that issue.

For example, if you were hoping for a balance transfer promotion but the applied-for credit card lacks one, see if they can move you to a credit card that offers it.

If you do end up canceling, request written confirmation in either a mailed letter or an email for your records. About 30-45 days later, you should be able to see the account reported as opened and closed on your credit report.

Related: How to cancel a credit card the right way

Will this affect your credit score?

Applying for a credit card results in a hard credit inquiry, appearing on your credit report and temporarily lowering your score by a few points.

Additionally, it impacts the average length of your credit history. The age of your accounts influences your credit history, and closed accounts contribute to that average. If you have a closed account on your credit report that was only open for one billing cycle, it will decrease your

If issuers see that you regularly open and quickly close accounts they may not be too keen to approve you again. The practice of opening accounts just for the welcome bonus and then quickly closing them is called “credit card churning” and raises a red flag for many issuers.”

Keep the credit card but don’t use it

If you don’t want to close the new credit card, you can always just keep it but not use it. You will have an open account on your credit report showing an available balance and no negative history. That will likely help your score by lowering your credit utilization ratio

Use the credit card once in a while if you want to keep it open. If you haven’t used the card in a while, the credit card company may close the account. Exactly when that occurs depends on the specific issuer. 

If you want to keep the account open indefinitely, there's an easy way to use the credit card responsibly with minimal effort on your part. You can set up one recurring charge to go on that account and then set up the auto-pay to pay the card in full each month. As long as you don’t have an annual fee that won’t cost you any money and will keep the card active with very little effort on your part. 

However, if your financial situation should close the account then that is what you should do. Your credit will be recovered. 

Man signing credit card application form. Guide if you apply for a credit card.

FAQs

Can you decline a credit card after approval?

No, you can’t. When you apply for a credit card, you give permission to open the account in your name. Once the account is approved it will most likely be immediately activated. 

How many credit card is too many?

It depends on you. If you can’t keep track of your accounts, forget about cards, miss payments, or just feel overwhelmed with the number of open accounts you have then you have too many.

If you feel comfortable adding in another account then you can do that. There is no magic number that is “too many”.

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

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Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.