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How to apply for a credit card and get approved

Knowing your score and checking your prequalified offers can boost your chances of landing the card you want

Summary

To boost your chances of getting a credit card, make sure you know your credit score and leverage prequalification tools.

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The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Whether you’re eager to build your credit score, start earning rewards, pay down a balance with an intro APR or find emergency payment method, there are plenty of reasons to decide it’s time to apply for a credit card.

But what happens if you aren’t approved? Not only will you not receive the card you wanted, but your credit score can be damaged in the process – thanks to a hard pull on your report.

Before you apply for any credit card offer, you should carefully consider whether the card is best for you in addition to your approval odds. With a little bit of research and planning, you can boost your chances of being approved and finding a card that matches your lifestyle. Follow the steps detailed below to maximize your chances of getting approved for a credit card.

Know your credit score

The first step to applying for a credit card – before you even begin researching specific products – is to know your credit score. It is important to know where you stand in a lender’s eyes, so you can estimate how likely you are to be approved for a card. Then, you can take a look at products designed for your credit range.

There are plenty of free services available online to keep track of your score, and you can pull a full copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once per year on AnnualCreditReport.com. On the report, you’ll be able to visualize the factors that go into your score, such as your open accounts and payment history, to get a better idea of how you look to lenders.

See Related: Credit report sample: How to read, understand a credit report 

Find a card that matches your credit range

Once you know your credit score and understand the factors that go into it from your credit report, you can identify what credit range you fall in. This plays a huge role in determining which cards you can qualify for.

Credit score ranges

Needs work300-579
Fair580-669
Good670-739
Excellent740-850

Depending on which range you fall into, your likelihood of being approved for credit cards changes. Different card offerings are designed for different kind of customers, so by choosing a card that is built for cardholders in your credit range, you maximize your chances of being approved.

See Related: Comparing the various types of credit cards

Top cards for each range

Poor/limited credit

Discover it® Secured

Fair credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Good/excellent credit

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter
1% cash back on all other purchases
1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day4% cash back on dining and entertainment
2% at grocery stores
1% on all other purchases

Check for prequalified offers

If you’re worried about your approval odds, you can check for prequalified credit card offers using tools like CardMatch™. That way, you’ll know if you qualify before you apply and trigger a hard pull on your credit.

Additionally, many issuers have tools on their websites that allow you to screen prequalified offers. Check out pages from each major issuer, linked below.

Consider building your credit before applying

If the card you were hoping for is just out of reach, you might be better off taking some time to build your credit score before you apply. You don’t want to risk applying and suffering a ding to your score, only to not be approved for the card.

See Related: 10 tips to improve your credit score in 2019

There are several steps you can take to build your credit score, but the most important things to do are make all your payments on time and keep your credit utilization low.

Ensure your application is competitive

When it’s time to actually fill out a card application, make sure your information is accurate and complete. When you list your estimated income, don’t forget to include any side money you earn.

Additionally, you should avoid applying for too many credit card offers at once. Beyond effects to your credit score from hard pulls, applying for too many cards in a short period of time signals to issuers that you are desperate for credit and a risky investment.

See Related: Applying for multiple credit cards at the same time is a bad idea

Bottom line

The most important thing you can do to boost your chances of being approved for a credit card is to do your research. You should make sure you know your credit score to determine which cards you qualify for and that the card’s benefits are best for you. Then, you can take advantage of prequalification tools like CardMatch to see what cards you can get before you apply. Just keep in mind that just because you aren’t prequalified for a card doesn’t mean you won’t be approved.

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Published: September 10, 2019

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: October 16th, 2019
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15.18%
Airline
17.11%
Cash Back
17.25%
Reward
17.13%
Student
17.29%

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