What documents do I need to submit with my credit card application?

A card issuer is asking for a substantial amount of documentation to back up a reader’s application. Is that the norm?


The USA Patriot Act requires financial institutions to “know your customers,” and each issuer has its own policies about required documentation for new accounts.

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With card issuers trying to attract prospective customers with all sorts of rewards, you might think it’s a slam dunk when you apply for a credit card. That’s not always the case, as reader Mica found out.

Mica was approved for a AAA Dollars Mastercard online. U.S. Bank, which issues the card, then wanted to verify the applicant’s information, and asked Mica to provide copies of all the following documentation:

  • Driver’s license
  • Mortgage statement
  • Social Security card
  • Social Security form 4506-T
  • Pay stub
  • Federal income tax return for the last two years

Given that this is a substantial amount of information the issuer is asking for, Mica wonders if this is customary or legal.

Documentation requirements vary

Mica, upon following up with this issuer, a spokesman said in general, most AAA Dollars Mastercard applicants don’t need to provide any documentation. He added that “we may request certain documentation to help validate an applicant’s identity or to qualify them for a certain credit limit.”

Other card issuers have similar policies. A Chase spokesperson clarified that requirements for documents vary, depending on each individual’s case.

“While not always required, additional documentation can vary depending on the product type (consumer or business) as well as other information that may be necessary for fraud prevention,” the spokesperson said.

Over at American Express, a spokesperson noted that card applicants need to furnish their U.S address, U.S. phone number, taxpayer identification number or valid government-issued identification, and information about their income, employment and financial assets.

Amex will then ask its applicants for documentation to back this information “on a case-by-case basis,” with card approval being subject to Amex’s “standard credit and fraud checks.”

Know your customer requirements

Card issuers have put in all these input requirements since federal law requires them to get information from their prospective customers and verify and record it. That’s why they ask for all your personal details when you apply.

That’s pretty standard. It’s the requirement for documentation to back up this information that is more subjective, and this is based on each issuer’s particular policies and the judgment of the person processing the application.

The requirement to get customer input is based on the so-called “know your customers” provision of the USA Patriot Act. This regulation aims to stop terrorists before they act, and punish acts of terrorism. Considering that money is vital fuel for terrorism, the government’s aim is to make it difficult for terrorists to obtain financing or launder their money through financial institutions.

To this end, the law establishes the basic standards that financial institutions have to go by when a customer opens an account with it. Considering that the law only sets the baseline for verification, it’s then up to each institution how much more stringent it will be. That’s why card issuers’ policies for applicant documentation run the gamut.

Decide whether it’s worth it 

Mica, it seems you tripped up U.S. Bank’s screening process in some way, based on whatever you stated in your application process. It’s up to you whether you want to jump through this issuer’s underwriting hoops and provide this documentation in order to enjoy the benefits of the AAA Dollars Mastercard.

You may decide that it’s not worth your time and effort to continue with this particular card application process. Certainly, there are multiple card issuers out there vying for your dollars. In any event, the underwriting followup asking for these documents, while not always customary, is certainly not out of place.

Bottom line

You will have to provide certain personal information when you apply for a credit card. The USA Patriot Act has a “know your customers” provision that requires banks to get certain information from prospective customers and verify the input, so as to deter terrorists.

Each bank has its own policies about what sorts of documentation it might require from you to verify the information you provide. Underwriters use their own discretion, too. You can decide for yourself whether what a card offers is worth providing the, sometimes extensive, information the issuer asks for.

Contact me at pthangavelu@redventures.com with your credit card-related questions.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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