Getting denied when you apply for a credit card has an extra sting if your credit score drops, too.
But it can happen. One component of your credit score is how recently you have applied for credit. You can potentially lose a few points simply for applying.
The good news? Time can heal the damage. If you stop applying for credit for about six months, your score should rebound.
Still, before you apply, it's smart to check your credit report and score, and to apply only for credit that you feel reasonably sure you’ll qualify for.
If not the rejection, then why did my credit score drop?
The reason your score drops when you apply for a card is because lenders generally do a “hard inquiry” to check your credit before deciding to approve or reject you. Requests for additional credit, especially if you have several close together, suggest more risk for the lender or card issuer. That's why the more hard inquiries you have, the more of an effect it'll have on your score.
So the “no” does not hurt your score, but the application does.
Approval, though, can make the potential drop a lot more palatable — and it offers ways to balance it out. If you get approved for a new credit card, for example, it bumps up your total credit limit. The percentage of your credit limit that you're using is a major factor in your credit score. When your total credit limit increases, that makes your outstanding balances a smaller share of the now larger overall credit limit, so that extra breathing room can help your credit.