Credit card reconsideration line: What are your chances?

You applied for a card online, only to get the dreaded “rejected” or “pending” response. There’s still another option, though – calling the issuer’s reconsideration line and pleading your case to a (hopefully) sympathetic person.

Your success with the reconsideration line will depend on the techniques you use as well as the reason you were rejected in the first place, experts say. Read on for some tips.

What is the reconsideration line?

When you apply for a credit card online, you’re first asking a computer for approval. Based on the issuer’s requirements and your credit history, the computer will spit back an almost immediate answer of “yes,” “no,” or “pending.” If you get either of the latter two responses, you can call the issuer’s reconsideration line and ask a human being to review your case.

“In layman’s terms, you can call and beg for them to give you the credit line,” says Scott Bilker, founder of

Issuers generally don’t publicize their reconsideration line phone numbers, but they’re easy to find. The Points Guy, for example, has a directory.approved or rejected stamp

When to call

If you are turned down, the issuer will send you a rejection letter, which must state the reasons you were turned down, the credit score it used to make its decision and instructions for obtaining a free copy of the credit report it used.

But there’s no reason to wait for the letter; if the issuer’s algorithm rejects you outright, Bilker recommends calling the reconsideration line immediately.

The same rule applies if you find yourself in limbo with a response of “application pending,” says Travis Sherry, founder of the travel website and podcast Extra Pack of Peanuts.

“If you wait, you could get approved without calling,” he says. “But I just figure I’ll expedite the process, get it taken care of. I’d like to get the card as early as possible so I can start using it.”

Not all issuers will be able to help you immediately while your application is pending, Sherry says. While some will be happy to review your pending application over the phone, others will ask you to call back after they’ve reviewed your application themselves.

What are your chances?

When you call the reconsideration line, you’re not exactly in a strong position to negotiate, Bilker says. Unlike existing customers (who can negotiate terms by threatening to cancel their cards), the issuer has nothing concrete to lose by not giving potential customers (who were already rejected by their algorithm) a break.

“They might want business, but if they wanted your business, they wouldn’t have rejected you,” Bilker says. “So maybe they don’t want your business that much this time.”

That said, you still might have luck with the reconsideration line. Here are some possible reasons for rejection – and your chances of being reconsidered:

  1. You have too much credit with one issuer: If an issuer’s algorithm sees you already have several of their cards – and high limits – it may reject you outright. After all, if you get into financial trouble, you might start carrying all your debt eggs in its basket.

    Fortunately, this problem has a potential fix if you call the reconsideration line and offer to move some of your available credit from an existing card to the new one you want. That way, the issuer isn’t taking on any additional liability.

    “You’re probably going to get that to happen,” Bilker says. “You want the card to take advantage of the points, and the bank certainly wants you to use your card. And if you’re willing to give up some of your credit line [from another card], there’s no change for the issuer.”

    Sherry says he’s had success with this method, most recently when he applied for the Southwest Rapid Rewards card from Chase.

    “I asked if it would be possible to take some of the credit limit from my Chase United card and put it on the Southwest card because I wasn’t going to be flying United as much,” he says.

  2. There’s an error on your credit report: “Maybe there’s some kind of mistake, and you noticed that one of the reasons you got rejected doesn’t add up,” Bilker says.

    Sherry encountered this very scenario. When he called the reconsideration line, the representative flagged a delinquent account that had just appeared on his report.

    “So I checked my report, and there was some Verizon bill on there, and I don’t even have Verizon,” Sherry says.

    Unfortunately, this probably isn’t something you’re going to be able to clear up on the phone, Bilker says.

    “They might say, ‘Correct the error and try again,’ ” he says.

    And that’s what Sherry had to do.

    “I had to get it off my credit reports and reapply,” he says. “That kind of stinks. You have to reapply, so there’s another hard pull on your credit. And you have to wait to reapply because it can take a month to get the mistake removed from your credit report.”

  3. Your credit report is full of (true) negative information: In this situation you’re probably not going to be able to talk yourself into the card, Bilker says. And, no, a sob story and promises to improve won’t help.

    “When you’re begging, you have no bargaining power,” Bilker says. “The best thing to do, if you really want the card, is to find out the reason for the rejection and fix that. If it’s an error, fix the error. Or fix your behavior. Pay some of your balances down. And then try in the future.”

  4. You’re a student with low income: College students might have a shot if they can sell themselves to the issuer, Sherry says. Perhaps, in your initial application for a student credit card, you included your part-time job income. If you call the reconsideration line, you might talk about your scholarships, which issuers may also count as income. Adding that you’re on the honor roll, have a post-graduation job offer and want to start building your credit isn’t guaranteed to work –- but it might sway a representative. After all, hooking you as a customer early can pay off for the issuer down the road, Sherry says.

    “You want them to see you as someone who, in the future, will become loyal if they get you early,” Sherry says. “If you’re in your early 20s at this point, that could be 50 more years that you could be with them.”

Increasing your chances

Before you dial the reconsideration department, do the following:

  • Get your paperwork in order: Know which cards you have with the issuer and which cards you have in general. Sherry pulls up his spreadsheet of all his cards before calling so he can lead the conversation and suggest, for example, moving some available credit from one of his existing cards to the new one.

    “Make it sound like you know what you’re talking about,” he says.

  • Know why you want the card: Be prepared to explain why you applied for the card -– and don’t mention the sign-up bonus. Suggesting you’re going to milk the bonus and ditch the card makes you an unattractive customer. Safer things to mention include your plans to fly with the card’s affiliated airline more and use the free-checked-bag benefit.

    “Know two or three of that card’s perks that aren’t bonus related, and explain how it will fit into your life,” Sherry says.

What to do next

If the answer’s still “no,” Sherry recommends calling again.

“There have been times where I’ve called and they said they wouldn’t give me the card,” he says. “And then I called back again and got it easily. But I’d say, if you call three times and don’t get it, you’re probably done.”

Bilker, meanwhile, recommends moving on immediately –- after checking to make sure your credit report doesn’t contain any snags that would derail future applications. And, if you get another mailed offer for the same card, give it another whirl. After all, you never know:

“I’ve been rejected for cards, gotten the rejection letter, and in the same pile of mail, gotten another offer for the same card,” Bilker says. “I applied for that same card the day I got the rejection letter and got accepted. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on back there.”

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