How to Apply for a Credit Card: 5 Steps to Getting Approved

August 8, 2019

How to Apply for a Credit Card Title Image

Applying and getting approved for a credit card can be a strenuous process, especially if you have no credit history or you’ve had trouble applying for a card in the past. There are a lot of factors that affect your chances of getting approved, so knowing how to apply for a credit card is crucial for securing the card you want.

We’re going to walk you through the different steps you should take to increase your chances of getting approved.

  1. Understand How Your Credit Score Affects Your Application
  2. Learn How to Access Your Credit Score and Credit History
  3. Improve Your Credit Score
  4. Determine the Best Card For You
  5. Submit Your Application

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1. Understand How Your Credit Score Affects Your Application

Understanding how your score affects your chances is an important first step to apply for a credit card. Each issuer has their own set of criteria and may accept different credit scores for different credit card limits. Generally, the higher your score, the better your chances of getting approved and getting a high credit limit.

Credit Score Ranges
300–529 Bad
530–689 Fair
690–719 Good

2. Learn How to Access Your Credit Score and Credit History

Now that you understand what role your credit score plays in your application, you should next learn how to check your credit score and read your credit report. You can access your credit score by checking with your credit card company, asking your bank or signing up with a free online service. This is a good way to see where you stand and what range you generally fall under.

You’re also entitled to a free credit report from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian through Annual Credit Report. It’s a good idea to review the items in your report to make sure all of the information is accurate and fair. For example, an inaccurately reported late payment on your credit report can drastically decrease your credit score. If you do find any discrepancies, it’s important to dispute any errors on your credit report with each of the credit bureaus and ensure your report is accurate.

3. Improve Your Credit Score

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If your score isn’t as high as you’d like, now is the best time to start implementing changes to give it a nice boost. The way you tackle this depends on what works best for your situation. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Stay current with your payments
  • Lower balances on any existing accounts
  • Do not take on new debt

These three things can help boost your score since they directly impact your credit score. For instance, payment history (including your ability to make payments on time!) accounts for 35 percent of your credit score. This is also the largest factor that affects your credit score, so you’ll want to stay current when possible.

Keeping a low balance impacts the next most influential factor of your credit score. 30 percent of your score is determined by your credit utilization. This is the ratio between how much credit you’ve used versus how much credit you have available overall.

For example, if a person has a $400 balance on their card with a $500 limit, they have an 80 percent credit utilization. This is high and can greatly hurt your score. It’s recommended to keep your credit utilization below 30 percent. The lower your utilization, the better your score.

4. Determine the Best Card For You

There are many different card offers available to you. To simplify the process, you should first determine what factors are most important to you. Then, you should research and compare different cards based on the criteria you’ve identified.

Researching Cards

Researching credit cards is important. You shouldn’t just apply for the first card you see that you think might accept you. You’ll want to consider things like:

  • Card benefits and sign-up bonuses
  • Any associated fees
  • Where you spend the most money
  • How you plan to use the card
  • Your ability to pay with the annual percentage rate (APR)
  • Your credit score

If the card comes with fees, make sure you can deal with paying them and that they’re worth the benefits. You'll also want to consider your credit score and what credit cards you're most likely eligible for. This information is usually available online on the card issuer’s site.

When considering your next credit card, you may want to consider applying for one offered by your bank or credit union. Having an existing account and history may increase your likelihood of getting approved for a card.

You should also consider cards that allow you to check if you're pre-qualified. This requires some paperwork and normally pulls a soft inquiry to check your score. These checks can work in your favor since it indicates whether or not you meet all of their requirements up to that point. However, keep in mind that you still need to apply for the card to get fully approved.

Comparing Cards

After you’ve identified the cards that fit most of your criteria, you should take time to compare them to see what best fits what you’re looking for in a card. You should also take into account how likely it is for you to get approved for the card.

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Applying for a Credit Card with No Credit History

If you’re applying for your first card or have no credit history, consider one of the following options:

  • Secured Credit Card - A secured card is usually easier to get approved for because you put down a deposit with the bank that works as your credit limit. You charge the card and make payments each month.
  • Student Card - There are student credit cards that are geared toward college students to help them build their credit, but those are slightly different from regular credit cards.
  • Authorized Credit Card User - You can get added as an authorized user to another person’s card. This gives you access to their card and allows you to build credit.

5. Submit Your Application

Once you’ve gathered the information you need on different credit cards and have picked one, it’s time to apply. Most banks allow you to apply online. Or, you can apply in person at the bank if there’s a location near you. This can be helpful because a banker will likely be able to answer any additional questions you have.

Typical Information Needed to Apply for a Credit Card

  • Physical Address
  • Proof of Income
  • Social Security Number
  • Credit Score

Credit Application Tip: Add all Streams of Income

To get any type of credit account, you need to prove that you’re making money. This is so that credit card companies know you have the capability to pay them each month. It also helps determine your credit limit. It’s important to include all forms of income to demonstrate your ability to pay and keep up with payments. A higher-income puts your debt-to-income ratio in your favor.

If You Get Approved for a Credit Card

Use your new credit card wisely. Everything you charge has to be paid back. If you carry balances over from month to month, you’ll have to pay interest too. If you can, try to pay the entire balance off by the end of the month so that you don’t have to pay interest. And remember to pay on time. You don’t want to pay late fees and you don’t want late payments to show up on your credit as these can be damaging.

If You Get Rejected for a Credit Card

If you do get declined for the card, don’t be discouraged. You can apply for another one, although too many applications in a short amount of time can hurt your credit. If you get declined for a credit card, the credit card issuer must tell you why. Once you know the reason, it may be time to work on your credit so that you can get approved next time.

Credit Cards and Your Credit

A credit card can be a great tool to boost your credit. When looking for a credit card, keep your finances in mind and do your research to find the right credit card for you. If you have damaged credit, and can’t get approved for a credit card, contact the credit specialists at Lexington Law Firm. We offer a free credit consultation to help you understand what’s on your credit report. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of clients removed millions of negative unfair, inaccurate, and unverified information from their credit. Call today to see how we can help you.

Improve your report, improve your interest rate. Call for a free consultation

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