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Updated: April 25, 2018
Itching for a shiny new credit card? In many cases, you can be approved within minutes. Add to that, there is a card for nearly everyone – it's just a matter of knowing what you want and what you will likely qualify for.
In some cases, you may get preapproved for a card, sometimes by mail. But there are a few things to know about these offers, and they may not be what you think. Here, we look at:
Whatever your reason for applying for a credit card, we’ll answer your most pressing questions.
When you apply for a credit card, you are required to fill out an application that's typically a page long that includes personal information including name, address and Social Security number as well as income, income source and monthly housing payments.
When you hit the apply button, one of several things can happen. You can be approved within minutes, it can go into "pending," or you can be rejected. If you don't want to wait the week to find out the answer when it goes into pending, you can call customer service and have the agent gather more details to make a decision then and there. Otherwise, you'll get an answer in the mail, and possibly your card.
If you are rejected for a credit card, the card issuer must give you the reason why. Other than a credit score that is too low, the reasons can be:
Although there are a number of reasons why you might be rejected, the biggest factor is your credit score. The better your score, the more likely you will be accepted. Below is looking at FICO scores on a scale of 300-850, with 850 as the best:
Now that you know what bank issuers are looking for, here's what you need to know about getting approved for a card:
When you are preapproved for a credit card, it is not a guarantee that you will get the card. It is simply an invitation to apply because the bank likely checked your credit and has decided you might be a good customer.
Once you apply, you could be offered another offer, or you could even be rejected. If you don't want the card, be sure to shred the preapproval because there can be personal information printed on it, such as your name and address.
Want to apply, but not sure if you should? The New York Federal Reserve found that younger people with lower credit scores are more likely to apply. While 32% of consumers with a score of less than 680 applied in February 2018, only 24.6% who had a score of at least 760 applied. The difference is more striking by age:
Credit checks are not created equal. Learn the difference between "hard" and "soft" pulls and how to make sure your score isn't impacted any more than it has to be.
Every time you apply for credit, whether for an installment loan, such as a car loan, or a credit card, your credit is checked or "pulled." Called a "hard pull," this will show up on your credit reports, whether you are accepted for the financial product or not.
When you apply for a card, count on that temporarily impacting your score by about 5 points, which is typically not considered a big hit. However, if you apply for multiple cards at once, that can hit your credit pretty hard.
That's why we recommend that you only apply for one card at a time and that you ensure that you have a high likelihood of getting the card by checking your score first.
When a lender or card issuer does a "soft pull," they are checking your credit without impacting your score. This is often done without your knowledge and is conducted to see if you might qualify for a product they want you to get.
A preapproval for a credit card is basically an invitation to apply for a card and does not hurt your credit score. The bank has likely pulled your credit with a soft pull. When you apply for the card, the bank will conduct a hard pull or inquiry, which will remain on your credit files for 24 months.
Sometimes an issuer will offer to "preapprove" you before conducting a hard pull. There is no guarantee that you will be approved for the card, and the issuer isn't required to approve you. Be mindful that you may be offered terms that differ from the original offer.
If you want to opt out of preapproved offers, visit OptOutPreScreen.com and dmachoice.org. Opting out will not impact your ability to obtain credit, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Card issuers vary in what they check when you apply for a credit card. In addition to what you provide, they will check your credit. Here is some of the information they might ask for:
Once you are approved by the card issuer, they will mail you your new card – it can take up to 10 days to receive the card. In some cases, though, you can use the card immediately online – check with your card issuer.
While Discover says that you typically can't use your new card immediately, the network says issuers will sometimes provide expedited shipping for some cards, but you need to ask. In some cases, a card issuer will expedite free of charge.
There are also "instant approval" offers, which are basically conditional offers that an issuer provides while a more thorough check is conducted. Because of this, an instant approval offer is not a guarantee.
If you have to wait for the card to arrive in the mail, you'll see a sticker on it that tells you to activate it. While you may think that the card is useless until it's activated, the truth is that it varies by issuer. Some issuers allow a few "courtesy" purchases before declining, while others don't.
As tempting as it may be, don't fail to read your agreement with the issuer. Rates, fees and fines will be included as well as terms of benefits. Make sure you are clear about your due date and your credit limit.
When you get your first bill, read it carefully to make sure you recognize all the charges. Be sure and pay on time.
|Card||Our Favorite Feature||Annual Fee|
|Fingerhut Credit Account issued by WebBank||Easy Application||$0|
|OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card||No credit check needed||$35|
|Horizon Gold Card||Fast approval||$24.95 auto-debited monthly|
|CityScape ACE Elite™ Visa® Prepaid Debit Card||Easy money transfers to other ACE Elite Cardholders||Variable|
|primor® Secured Visa® Gold Card||High credit lines||$49|
|UNITY® Visa Secured Credit Card||No minimum credit score required||$39|
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