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TravelYour guide to calling a credit card reconsideration line

Your guide to calling a credit card reconsideration line


Credit card issuers have the final say over whether or not your application is approved, and they rely on data like your credit score, income and history with the issuer to make that decision. Obviously, the goal is to get as many of your applications approved as possible, and you can help your chances by applying for cards that match your credit profile and studying up on credit card application rules.

That being said, rejections are bound to happen.

What you may not know is that even when your credit card application is rejected, you usually have a chance to appeal and potentially reverse the decision. In fact, a quick phone call to the reconsideration department might flip your disappointing rejection into an approval.

Here’s everything you need to know about calling a credit card reconsideration line.

How credit card reconsideration works

While credit card issuers still employ human underwriters, most application decisions are made automatically by a computerized system that can make mistakes. Because of the risk and cost involved in accidentally approving applicants who are considered risky, these mistakes tend to skew toward the conservative side — in other words, rejecting applicants who meet the application rules, are creditworthy and likely should be approved.

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This is where the reconsideration department comes in. While not every issuer has a separate, dedicated reconsideration department, most major card issuers have underwriting agents with the authority to review applications that have been rejected and reverse the decision (i.e. approve the application) if there’s good reason to do so.

Your odds of success vary heavily depending on the reason for your denial (for more information, see the section on case studies below). However, it’s worth it if you think there’s a slight chance of turning a “no” into a “yes” on the card. This most frequently happens with a denial that’s open to interpretation rather than being denied for a clear violation of a published bank policy.

Related: 8 ways to maximize your chances of being approved for a credit card

When should you call a reconsideration line?

Normally, your application “expires” 30 days after you submit it. If your application for a card is denied and you’re hoping to get the decision reversed, it’s better to call sooner rather than later. You can wait for the bank to notify you of the denial — if not denied immediately — but you may also need to wait if your application goes to pending.

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This happens when the system doesn’t give you an immediate decision; usually you’ll see a message like, “We’ll inform you of our decision within 7-10 business days.”

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The only time I’d recommend calling reconsideration for a pending application is if you need the card immediately. Maybe you have a large purchase coming up that would meet the sign-up bonus requirements in one fell swoop. Maybe you’re heading out of town and want to use that card before it sits in your mailbox for the next two weeks unattended.

In such situations, explaining your sense of urgency and asking for the card to be expedited in the mail can help.

Related: Debunking credit card myths: What can you do if your application isn’t immediately approved?

How to talk to a reconsideration agent

Before you talk to a reconsideration agent, it’s worth doing your homework and preparing what you’ll say. I always open my call with some version of the following:

“Hello, I recently applied for (insert name of card) and was surprised to see that my application (was rejected/wasn’t instantly approved). I was hoping I could talk to someone to better understand this decision and possibly get it reconsidered.”

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosures Act (CARD Act) of 2009 requires issuers to explain to you in writing the reason your application was rejected. It’s very important to have this piece of information before you call the reconsideration line so you can politely explain to the agent why the concerns the bank raised aren’t relevant and you would, in fact, make a great customer.

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Remember: the point of this call is to counter the reasons for denial. Stay laser-focused on those, since the only way to turn a denial into an approval is to alleviate the bank’s concerns that resulted in a denial in the first place.

Understanding denial reasons

It’s not enough to simply say, “I really want this card, is there anything you can do?” You need to understand the reasons your application was rejected in the first place and come prepared to argue against them. Let’s take a look at two common examples.

A delayed credit report update

Adding a spouse, sibling or child as an authorized user on your credit card can be a great way to help them build credit and for spouses to team up to meet the minimum spending requirement on a new card. Unfortunately, being an authorized user can count against your 5/24 status with Chase, for example.

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That same concept applies if you have been added as an authorized user and an automated system flags these new accounts as being your own, thus considering you to be over Chase’s 5/24 rule. Asking the phone representative to count the number of accounts where you are just an authorized user and remove those from consideration should be simple and should help the rep know that you aren’t, in fact, over 5/24.

Too much total credit

Banks all have their own internal formulas to calculate how much total credit they’re willing to extend to an individual. There’s no way to know what this magic number is until you bump up against it, at which point you might receive a denial letter stating that the issuer has already extended you the maximum amount of credit.

The good news is that this is usually one of the easiest denials to get overturned.

Simply call the reconsideration line and offer to move credit from one of your existing cards to this new account. That way, you can be approved without the bank having to extend you any new credit.

Just keep in mind that every card has a minimum amount of credit you can have on it (usually $1,000 or more), so you’ll have to move enough to the new card in order to open it while still leaving credit behind on the other card. For example, you could say something like this:

“Since I have $15,000 in credit on my (card name), could you take half of that to use for opening this new card? That way, there’s no new credit being issued, but I would be able to have this new card to enjoy the perks it offers.”

When calling reconsideration won’t work

Reconsideration works best when the application has incomplete data (in the case of our authorized user example above) or when the reason for the rejection is more subjective. Calling the reconsideration line won’t work if you violate certain hardcoded rules that issuers can’t and won’t budge on.

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For example:

  • Reconsideration won’t overturn a denial due to Chase’s 5/24 rule (unless, as mentioned above, you aren’t really over 5/24).
  • Certain cards require you to have a minimum of one year of credit history to be approved. This can’t be overturned by an agent.
  • Some issuers have rules about how many total cards you can have or how many cards you can open in a set 30/60/90-day period. These are “hard-coded” rules that can’t be overturned.
  • American Express has lately used a system where the phone rep you speak to will simply resubmit your application with a sentence or two of notes, asking for it to be reevaluated. This means your chances of discussing the application with the person who makes the decision are removed, and the decision may not change.

Finally, calling reconsideration is almost certain to fail if you are argumentative. You may think the denial reason is subjective and doesn’t make sense. However, being belligerent on the phone will not help you get approved for a card.

Bottom line

Getting rejected for a credit card is disappointing, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Spend some time reading your denial letter to understand what went wrong, map out your case and then call reconsideration. You may get lucky and get your denial reversed. Then again, you may not.

Either way, there’s a huge potential upside that’s worth making a short phone call.

Related: 6 lessons I learned from my rejected credit card applications

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