If I Apply for a Card but Decide I Don’t Want It, Can I Refuse It?

If I Apply for a Card but Decide I Don’t Want It, Can I Refuse It?

The credit card application process is straightforward but requires a thorough understanding to avoid potential pitfalls. Applicants typically complete an application form either online or in-person, providing personal details such as their name, address, social security number, and income. The issuing bank verifies these details and assesses the applicant's creditworthiness, largely based on credit history and current financial situation.

In some cases, instant approval is granted, but usually the process takes a few days or weeks. Once approval is given, the credit card company sends the card to the applicant's registered address. However, at this point, some people may have second thoughts about the new card. The question then arises: if you apply for a credit card do you have to accept it?

What Happens When You Apply for a Credit Card?

When you apply for a credit card, the issuing bank conducts a hard inquiry into your credit history. This involves obtaining your credit report from one or all of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. The hard inquiry is noted on your credit report and can marginally decrease your credit score.

Upon approval, the bank will set your credit limit, interest rate, and other terms based on your creditworthiness. The physical card is then produced and sent to your address. Before you can use the card, you must activate it by calling a specified number or registering it online.

Can You Refuse a Credit Card After Application?

Yes, you can refuse a credit card after application. If you apply for a credit card, but then decide you do not want it, you can simply not activate the card once it arrives. However, the card account exists, and the card issuer may still charge fees, such as an annual fee, depending on your credit card agreement.

Implications of Refusing a Credit Card Post-Application

Refusing a credit card after application does have implications. As mentioned, the issuing bank makes a hard inquiry when you apply, which can lower your credit score. This decrease is temporary and usually small, but if you apply for multiple cards within a short period, the effect can be significant.

Furthermore, even if you do not activate the card, the account is open. You are responsible for any fees as per the card agreement. If these are not paid, the issuer may report the account as delinquent to the credit bureaus, further damaging your credit score.

Impact on Credit Score: If You Apply for a Credit Card Do You Have to Accept It?

The simple act of applying for a credit card will impact your credit score due to the hard inquiry. This impact is irrespective of whether you accept the card or not. Moreover, having an open account that you do not use can lower your credit score. This is because credit utilization, the ratio of your credit card balances to your total available credit, is a significant factor in credit scoring.

Therefore, if you apply for a credit card, do you have to accept it? Technically, no. However, it is advisable to close the account if you decide not to use the card, to avoid potential negative impacts on your credit score.

Alternatives to Refusing a Credit Card After Its Approval

If you are having second thoughts about a new credit card, there are alternatives to refusing it outright. One option is to simply not use the card, but this may result in annual fees and affect your credit score. Another option is to close the credit card account. This can also affect your credit score, but less so than having an unused open account.

How to Legally Cancel a Credit Card After Approval

To legally cancel a credit card after approval, you need to contact the card issuer. This can usually be done over the phone or online. You should request that the account be closed and that this closure be reported to the credit bureaus as "closed by consumer request."

Ensure to pay off any outstanding balance or transfer it to another card before closing the account. Once the account is closed, check your credit report to ensure it reflects this.

Tips to Consider Before Applying for a New Credit Card

Before applying for a new credit card, do your research. Consider the terms of the card, including the interest rate, fees, and benefits. Compare different cards to find the best fit for your needs.

Ensure to check your credit score and report before applying. If your score is low, you may want to take steps to improve it before applying to increase your chances of approval and secure better terms.


In conclusion, if you apply for a credit card, do you have to accept it? The answer is no. However, refusing a credit card after application can impact your credit score and potentially incur fees. It is crucial to thoroughly research and consider your options before applying for a credit card. If you decide a card is not right for you after approval, you can close the account, but this should be done carefully to minimize potential impact on your credit score.

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