How to Apply for a Credit Card So You’ll Get Approved

Understand your credit score, debt and income, and apply for a card that fits your profile.
Ben Luthi, Gregory KarpMar 22, 2021

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Applying for a  is as simple as entering your information into an But getting approved for a credit card? For some, it requires a little know-how and planning before applying.

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 — you have many — are one of the most important factors in a credit card issuer's decision to approve your application. Banks differ on how they make approvals, but scores are typically classified by lenders like this:

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Most rewards credit cards require good or excellent credit. So if you've struggled to maintain a good credit history, you might want to delay applying until your credit improves. Or, instead of rewards cards, you could consider  or .

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The most prominent scoring models are  and .

You can pay to get your FICO score from, but if you already have a credit card account, you may also already have access to free FICO scores on your monthly statement or online account. And Discover, an issuer of credit cards, offers a free FICO score to everybody, even if you’re not a customer.

Some personal finance websites, including NerdWallet, offer a from VantageScore. VantageScores and FICO scores track similarly because both weigh much the same factors and use the same data from the credit bureaus.

See NerdWallet's , updated weekly, for monitoring throughout the year.

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Your credit scores will rise if you:

A full 30% of your credit score is determined by how much you owe. High credit card balances can be especially damaging. Your — your balance divided by your credit limit — should be below 30% on each credit card. For example, if you have a credit limit of $10,000, it's recommended to keep the balance below $3,000.

Lower your credit utilization by creating a plan to pay down an existing balance as quickly as possible. And consider paying off purchases more than once a month to keep your balance lower throughout the month.

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If you have bad credit, you may not get approved for a card with a large sign-up bonus and lucrative rewards. Each credit card application can temporarily ding your credit report, so consider using an online tool to .

You can also call the card issuer and ask about a specific card's requirements.

No luck pre-qualifying? Consider these , which can help you get closer to qualifying for a rewards card over time. Use the card responsibly to help .

You may have an easier time getting approved for a secured credit card, which uses a cash deposit you make upon approval to  your line of credit. Some of  offer cash rewards, flexible deposit amounts, and the chance to upgrade to an unsecured card (and get your deposit back).


Issuers consider your credit scores an indicator of creditworthiness, but scores don’t reflect your income. Card issuers use income to calculate your , which helps determine your ability to make payments. Change your ratio by either increasing income or decreasing debt.

If you earn money outside your full-time job, include it on your application. As long as you’re 21 or older, you can include your household income, including , on your credit card application.

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Resist the temptation to overstate your income. If an issuer finds that you knowingly provided  on your application, you could be charged and convicted of credit card fraud.

Being  doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting a credit card.

If you think you've done everything right and your application is still denied, you can .

Have a plan before you call. You have the right to ask the issuer why you were denied, and you can also check your free credit report at  to see if there are any blemishes on your history. Formulate a convincing argument for why you want the card and why you are fiscally responsible. Be polite. Customer service agents are more likely to respond positively if you have a pleasant demeanor.

Still no luck?  between credit card applications can increase your chances of getting approved.

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Being denied for a credit card hurts — both psychologically and in terms of .

That's why it's essential to take stock of your credit situation before you apply for your next card and to choose the .

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Also, give accurate information during the application process and be prepared to make a case for yourself in the event you aren't approved immediately.

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