Can You Be Denied Approval For a Credit Card Because You Have No Credit Card Debt?

Well folks, I think it finally happened; I’ve actually been “punished” for being too fiscally responsible. Haha!

Yesterday, I was trying to take advantage of one of the free money promotions I posted about (the $100 cash back bonus for signing up for the Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard).

After entering in the normal pertinent details for applying for a credit card, I received the usual “you’ll receive an answer in several business days” message. I thought nothing of it.

To my surprise, this morning, I woke up and had the message below in my email inbox.


Why we’re writing you
Thank you for applying for the Citi(R) Dividend Platinum Select(R) MasterCard(R) account. Unfortunately, we are unable to approve your request for the account at this time because of the following:

Your credit bureau report shows you have no revolving accounts with a balance.

How about that folks? The way I read this news is that I was denied the credit card because I have no credit cards on which I am carrying a debt balance from month-to-month.

In other words, the credit card companies are not making money off me (except for the fees they charge the merchants for each card transaction I make – which by the way, MAKES THEM A LOT OF MONEY).

After half-way coming to terms with what had just transpired, I then did a quick Google search to see if this had happened to anyone else and if they could shed some light on the situation (see the link below for details of my findings).

Google Search For Reasons Why I Was Rejected For Not Carrying a Balance Discussion Board About Being Rejected For Not Carrying Balances Discussion Board – Being Rejected for Having No Credit Balances

As it turns out, this has happened many times to people applying to CitiBank credit cards. And, the only thing that the others could figure out was that they were rejected because they were currently paying off their balances in full each month.

What Can You Learn From This?

I think the key thing to learn from this is 1) to not apply for CitiBank credit cards for free money bonuses unless you are carrying a balance month-to-month on your credit cards and 2) to stick to what you know is right and keep paying off your balance in full each month (even if society seems to be enticing you to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, AND SPEND MORE).

How about you all? Have you ever been denied a credit card for seemingly strange/weird reasons? What did you do about it? Did you ever get the company to overturn their decision? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

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About the Author Jacob A Irwin

Hi folks! My name is Jacob. I am the owner and operator of My Personal Finance Journey. I started this blog in January of 2010 and have enjoyed the journey ever since. Since finishing up graduate school in Virginia in 2014, I have been working in biopharmaceutical development in Colorado. You can read more about me and this site here​. Please contact me if you have any questions!

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Leave a Comment:

krantcents says April 5, 2011

I was denied a card once (25 yrs ago) because a negative remark on my credit report. It turned out to be erroneous, but it took me 6 months to clear it up. I never reapplied.

@bfinance says April 5, 2011

Jacob, Obviously they are looking for folks from whom they can make money. You are to sensible to qualify. Congrats 🙂

    Jacob A Irwin says April 6, 2011

    Thanks Barb! I was quite surprised to find out that this could actually be a reason to be denied a credit card!

Pat S. says April 5, 2011

That's awesome! I'm the same way, pay off cards every month, don't carry a balance. I haven't applied for a new card in years, however so I guess I haven't experienced this. Sucks that you wont get the cool $100 though…
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    Jacob A Irwin says April 6, 2011

    Thanks for reading Pat! I know! I was hoping for another easy $100!

Toni says April 6, 2011

I just got a Citi card today in the mail……I NEVER carry a balance on my 6 cards…I use them once every 6 months to fill up on gas and then pay it off as soon s it shows up online.

    Jacob A Irwin says April 6, 2011

    That's good to hear that you didn't have any trouble! I probably haven't used some of my credit cards in longer than 6 months, so that could be contributing to the situation.

moneycone says April 7, 2011

Wow! They actually admit that?!

I wonder if only Citi does this or is this the norm now?

Sorry to hear this Jacob – I would suggest if you really must, try PenFed. They have a pretty good rewards program and it is a credit union. Joining Penfed is a hassle, but in my opinion worth it.

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    Jacob A Irwin says April 7, 2011

    I know! At least they are honest that they only want people to make interest money off of!

    From what I've seen on the web, this seems to be a Citi specific thing. I actually got approved for a Discover card today ($50 cash back bonus).

    Thanks for the recommendation on PenFed! I'll check it out!
    My recent post Can You Be Denied Approval For a Credit Card Because You Have No Credit Card Debt

      MoneyCone says April 7, 2011

      And thanks for letting us know about Citi! I wouldn't even bother applying there.

      BTW, good choice on Discover! I have that card and it is pretty decent. You have the option of gift cards or cash and provides other perks like extended warranty and revolving rewards.
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        Jacob A Irwin says April 7, 2011

        Good to hear about Discover! I've never had anything except Visa/Mastercard before. So, I'm curious to see how widely accepted Discover is.
        My recent post Can You Be Denied Approval For a Credit Card Because You Have No Credit Card Debt

krantcents says April 7, 2011

This sends the wrong message to Citibank cardholders. Their definition of financial responsibility is paying on time with huge interest rates like 24%. Their message is for people with good credit and no balances go somewhere else!
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    MyPerFinJourney says April 7, 2011

    I couldn't agree more. The definition of financially responsible is shifting to \”paying the minimum balance of your credit card only each month.\” Right on!

The Flierguy says April 8, 2011

This happened to me too!

    Jacob A Irwin says April 8, 2011

    Sorry to hear that it happened to you Flierguy! What card did you apply for?
    My recent post Can You Be Denied Approval For a Credit Card Because You Have No Credit Card Debt

KNS_Financial says April 8, 2011

I remember when I tried to get a car loan, and they told me that I didn't qualify because I didn't already have either a car loan or a mortgage (or any other installment loan)!

I think I had the same reaction that you did!

Suba says April 8, 2011

I am waiting for this to happen to me! I can't believe they actually admit that in the letter. I have too many cards that I use for once-in-a-year thing. Citi has gone downhill anyway. I just closed a citi card and opened PenFed. I am considering a discover card as well (their revolving thing is much better than the others I think). I still have citi forward I regularly use for restaurant & bookstores. But major money is going with Schwab visa and (now) penfed. Looks like now if I get rejected for citi I should be proud 🙂
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Kay Lynn -Bucksome says April 9, 2011

Thanks for letting me know. I'm going to apply for a credit card for my blog business and hadn't decided where to start.

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    MyPerFinJourney says April 30, 2011

    Glad that I could help out kay!
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Jacob A Irwin says April 9, 2011

Good news everyone! I just received and activated my Discover More Card today, and will spend the required $250 on it, get the $50 bonus, than stop using it (except for a small monthly auto transaction to keep the credit line active!
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Squirrelers says April 12, 2011

I've never been denied for a card, but in this case for you I'd say congratulations on being denied! Shows that you're on the right track by not carrying a balance. Perhaps you're too responsible to be profitable?

    Jacob A Irwin says April 12, 2011

    That's good you've never been denied! This was probably partly my fault because I didn't actually “need” the new card. I just wanted to promo bonus! So, maybe it was karma! haha
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Pamela D. says August 16, 2011

I worked as an account services representative for this prestigious credit card company in the US and I was in charge of those stuffs (sending people denial or approval letters) I never really denied anybody some credit for being current on their accounts but I’ve heard that some may have done that. I guess it just depends on the person who handles your account then.

alex wilson says August 14, 2017

This is not unusual I was also denied for the same reason. And the reason is very simple they are not offering cards to help us but to make money. And in your case Citi couldn’t find any way to make money with you so eventually, they denied.

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