There’s a huge array of credit card options on the market. Whether it’s a credit card that offers cashback or one that offers 0% on purchases, it’s crucial to know what to look out for when applying for credit.
Here are five steps on how to apply for a credit card, along with tips on what to bear in mind at each stage:
First of all, it’s vital to assess what you need a credit card for.
You might be trying to clear an existing debt and therefore require a 0% balance transfer card, or you might want to receive something back on your spending through a cashback or reward card.
If you’re unsure what type of card you need, our handy credit card decision tree can help guide you.
When you apply for a credit card all providers run a search on your credit history to see if you’re a suitable candidate. The better it is, the more likely you are to be accepted for the best deals.
It’s therefore a good idea to check your credit history with a credit reference agency such as Experian or Equifax before you apply for a credit card.
This will help avoid any surprises and also give you a chance to correct any mistakes. You can also take steps to improve your credit score should you need to - you can find some top tips on how to do this here.
If you’re unsure what type of card you need, our handy credit card decision tree can help you make your mind up.
Be wary of simply ploughing ahead and applying for a credit card as this will leave a print on your credit file, and if the provider rejects your application you may find it harder to get accepted by others.
Using an eligibility tool such as MoneySuperMarket’s Smart Search before you make your application allows you to compare credit cards and shows you which ones you’re most likely to be accepted for, so you can make your full application more confidently.
Importantly, it won’t leave a mark on your credit file.
4. Be aware you might not get the rate/deal advertised
Credit cards are becoming more and more competitive. However, by law, only 51% of applicants need to qualify for the rates or deals on offer in order for providers to advertise them. That means a large chunk of applicants won’t qualify.
Instead, you might be offered a shorter 0% purchase or balance transfer deal or a higher rate of interest – or annual percentage rate (APR). This is the official rate used for borrowing and takes into account the interest on the amount lent as well as other charges (such as annual fees).
If you are offered a higher interest rate or shorter 0% deal, you are not obliged to accept it and it’s always worth shopping around to see what other rates and deals are being offered by other providers.
Once you’ve found the card you want to apply for, it’s time to fill in the application form. This is easy to do online through our comparison tables on MoneySuperMarket.
Be sure to complete your details as honestly and thoroughly as possible.
If you don’t want to apply online, you can often apply using a direct mail pack, over the phone or by popping in to your local bank branch. Just be aware some of the best deals are only offered online.
If your application is declined, it could be worth getting a copy of your credit file to find out why, and consider alternative options.
Alternatively, if it’s good news, simply sit back and wait for your card to arrive – typically, this takes between 10 and 14 days, although it can be longer.
“How to Apply for a Credit Card Online” – (4 Steps, 5 Best Cards)
By: Lauren Keys • July 29, 2016
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.
It wasn’t until I finally saw my name printed along the bottom of my first credit card that I realized the process of applying wasn’t as difficult as I once believed. Since that day, I’ve applied and been approved for over 50 credit cards.
Using what I’ve learned from my personal experiences, this guide will walk you through the necessary steps for getting a new credit card in your wallet as quickly and easily as possible. Because your credit rating ultimately determines which cards you’ll be approved for, I’ve also rounded up the best credit cards to apply for based on your current credit score.
While there are a few different ways to apply for a credit card, the credit card companies have made it extremely easy to apply online. Depending on your credit score, you may find that you’ll receive a response sooner when you apply for a credit card online than through other methods such as regular mail or over the phone.
Your FICO credit score provides the credit card companies with a sense of your creditworthiness because it includes several factors related to credit use:
- Payment History makes up 35% of your FICO score
- Amounts Owed accounts for 30%
- Length of Credit History accounts for 15%
- Credit Mix & New Credit both contribute 10% each to your score
FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and your approval for certain cards depends on where your score falls. You’ll want to look into and apply for cards you feel confident you’ll be approved for, and there are many great credit card options for no credit, bad credit (<619), fair credit (620-679), good credit (680-719), and excellent credit (720+).
You can check your score through FICO directly or through one of the credit bureaus, like TransUnion.
Before you begin to apply for a credit card, you’ll want to make sure you have the information necessary to complete the application. You’ll be asked for some basic information including your name, contact details, and current address, as well as specific financial data such as your income. Further, you’ll need to supply security information including your Social Security number, date of birth, and mother’s maiden name.
If you have a thin credit file, meaning you have little to no credit history, then you may be asked for more information or proof of the information you provided, such as a copy of a government-issued ID or a previous address.
Most credit card applications will require the same personal and financial details, such as income and address.
It’s important to note that the terms “pre-qualified” and “pre-approved” are generally interchangeable and result in a soft credit inquiry, which does not affect your credit score. However, a pre-approval does not guarantee an actual approval for the card of your choice. With that said, if you’ve been prescreened for a card, you are more likely to be approved. In that instance, the issuer looks at available information to make a good estimate of your creditworthiness.
When you submit your credit card application online, by mail, or over the phone, you’re giving the issuer permission to do a hard pull on your credit, which has the potential to negatively affect your credit score, especially if you’re not approved.
Submitting your application online tends to be the most common and preferred method because you can easily compare multiple offers across issuers to ensure you get the best available rewards and rates. You can use our reviews as a shortcut and click the “Apply Now” button to go to each card’s official application:
Once you click “Submit,” your application will be sent to the issuer for approval.
4. Wait (Up to 2 Weeks) for a Decision on Your Credit Card Application
Many people with good to excellent credit will find they’re approved immediately after they submit their application online. If you apply by mail or phone, regardless of credit score, you may find it takes a little longer to hear back from the issuer. Applicants with fair to bad credit could end up waiting nearly two weeks for a decision from the credit card company.
If you’re not approved, you should wait about six months before applying again to give yourself time to rebuild your credit. Plus, requesting more credit too quickly could raise an avoidable red flag. Hard inquiries, such as credit card applications, remain on your credit report for two years.
However, if you believe you should have been approved or don’t understand why you were denied, you can reach out to the issuer directly for reconsideration. Each issuer will provide its own reconsideration phone number, and you’ll need to be prepared to answer additional questions as to why they should reconsider you. Also, be sure to call within 30 days or you may have to reapply, resulting in another hard inquiry.
It’s important to only apply for cards you think you can qualify for or risk not being approved, which can knock your score down a few points. By starting the search for you next credit card within your credit qualifications, you can feel more confident submitting your application.
Below are some of the best cards currently available, broken down by the different credit score ranges.
If you have excellent credit, then you’ve likely paid your bill on time without overextending your credit allowance, and if you continue those practices, a new card can be a responsible way to earn additional rewards. Check out this top pick for applicants with excellent credit: