How does applying for multiple credit cards impact your credit score?

Over the last several weeks, I’ve written about some generous credit card sign up bonuses.  In fact, I applied for the 75,000 bonus point AAdvantage card and the 30,000 Starwood bonus (expired).

However, as a personal finance blogger, I thought we should get a post on Help Me Travel Cheap that addresses credit scores and applying for multiple credit cards.

On my finance blog, I’ve made the point that your credit score matters.

To keep up with your credit score I suggest you use the free services from Credit Sesame.

How does credit card churning impact your credit score?

Rick Ingersoll, who blogs as says (via Insideflyer):

I estimate an inquiry on your credit report has a two-point effect. Open accounts are more complicated to determine as it depends largely on your utilization of credit in relation to your credit limit, the age of your credit, the ratio of revolving and installment credit and the timeliness of your payments.

However, Wikipedia estimates:

They say a hard inquiry pulls your score down 3-5 points. There are 2 different inquiries: hard and soft. A soft inquiry is when you pull your report or a creditor you already have pulls it to make sure you still have a good profile. The hard inquiries are the ones that hurt your score. It means that you are applying for credit.

As a result, Wikipedia advises that you have less than 6 credit inquiry reports within six months.

If you want to get a good idea how your credit report is compiled, read this post.

A second thing that may negatively impact your credit score is when you cancel a credit card.  The impact, however, may not be as drastic as you once assumed.  Here’s how much cancelling your credit cards impacts your credit score.

Suggestions for managing credit cards and credit reports to maximize miles

1.  If you plan to shuffle through credit cards and chase bonus points promotions, you’ll need to actively check your credit report because your FICO score matters.

2.  I like the suggestion that Ingersoll makes -

I would not be applying for multiple credit cards if I had a major purchase planned within the next two years. I would not be applying for credit cards for sign up bonuses if I could not pay off my existing cards every month in full.

3.  Only apply for the best offers.  If the offer is a standard offer (bonus has been in place for a long time), then wait unless you have an actual trip on the horizon.  Choose when to apply for a new credit card only when it is most lucrative.

4.  Cancel the card within the year.  Yes, this may hurt your credit report, but if you start paying for multiple annual fees, you’ll lose more ground that you cover.  Having too many credit cards to manage means you’ll miss payments and not cancel cards before the annual fee is due.

Final Note: Credit Cards and Miles

Credit cards are one of the best ways to boost your mileage balance.  They are also one of the worst ways to damage your finances.  As a result, I always warn that if a person is trying to get out of credit card debt, they should avoid the credit card churning game.


  1. says

    I really hate our credit system. In what universe should applying for a new apartment or credit card negatively impact your credit score. It doesn’t seem fair at all.

    • Craig says

      True. One does not apply for multiple credit cards in order to improve a credit score. However, the cost of a few points drop is worth hundreds (or thousands) of dollars worth of miles.

  2. says

    I agree Craig. The miles are definitely worth the initial ding to your credit. As long as you are paying your bill every month it won’t kill your credit in the long run. It’s all about being a good steward and not getting greedy.

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