Applying for a Credit Card: An 8-Step Guide | EarnIn

November 9, 2023

Applying for a Credit Card: An 8-Step Guide

With so many options out there, navigating the world of credit cards can feel like stepping into a maze of terms, conditions, and fine print. But applying for a credit card shouldn’t be a hassle. It’s all about understanding the basics about the application process, the type of information credit card issuers need from you when you apply, and ways to increase your chances of getting approved.

There’s no single best way to get a credit card, but when it comes to increasing your chances of being approved when you apply — and what to do if you’re denied — here are the basics:

How to apply for a credit card: 8 steps

1. Check your credit score

Before applying, you should know where you stand regarding your credit score. It’s an important factor that credit card issuers use when evaluating your application. Fortunately, you can check your credit score any time — for FREE — right on the EarnIn app or through various online platforms or credit bureaus.

2. Consider your needs

To find a credit card that works well for you, first think about your needs and wants. Are you wanting rewards, cash back, low- to no-cost balance transfers, or to build credit? Or are you in the market for a business credit card or perhaps a travel-specific credit card? Understanding your objectives will help you narrow your options and select a card that aligns with your goals.

3. Review your credit card application terms

Before completing a credit card application, carefully read the associated terms and conditions. Pay attention to the annual percentage rate (APR), maintenance fees, rewards structure, and any introductory offers, like low- or no-cost balance transfers or point bonuses. You might also consider whether the card issuer is a trusted, well-known banking institution and offers a variety of bank account options.

4. Compare credit cards and choose one to apply to

Research different credit card issuers and banks to find the best credit cards for your needs. Compare interest rates, fees, benefits, user ratings, and requirements like a minimum credit score to identify the ones that align with your financial objectives.

5. Check for pre-approval

Some issuers offer pre-approval checks that show you whether you're likely to be approved based on whether you meet the requirements for the credit card. Pre-approvals help gauge your eligibility before submitting a formal application, and they won’t negatively impact your credit score.

6. Submit your credit card application

Once you’ve selected a credit card that suits your needs, it’s time to gather the required documentation, including your personal information, income details, and employment history. Fill out the application accurately and truthfully. Be prepared with information like your social security number, annual income, and housing expenses.

7. Create a repayment strategy

Before using your credit card, come up with a repayment strategy to ensure you can comfortably manage your balance without taking on too much debt. Having a plan will help you avoid accruing high-interest debt and falling into a cycle of financial stress.

8. Review the approval terms

Once you’ve submitted your application, it’s time to wait for the credit card issuer’s response. If your application is approved (congrats!), review the terms and conditions the issuer provides. If you’re declined, think of it as an opportunity to understand the reasons and take steps to improve your chances for the next application.

What to do if your application is denied

Learning that you don't qualify for a credit card can be disappointing, but it’s not the end of the road; there are always more cards out there. If your credit card application is denied, you can take these steps to understand the decision and improve your chances of getting your credit approved:

1. Review the rejection letter

Credit card issuers typically provide reasons for denying your application. Carefully review the rejection letter to understand the specific factors that led to the denial. Common causes include a low credit score, insufficient income, or limited credit history.

2. Check your credit report

Get a copy of your credit report from major credit bureaus, and review it for any errors or inaccuracies that might have contributed to the denial. Dispute any incorrect information and work on resolving outstanding issues to improve your standing.

3. Build your credit

If your credit score contributed to the denial, focus on ways to improve it. You can start by paying bills on time, which you can also put on auto-debit to never miss a payment. Also, avoid applying for multiple credit cards in a short period and try to only apply to cards you have a good chance of being approved for. Over time, responsible credit management can boost your credit score significantly.

4. Consider a secured card

If you’re new to credit or have a limited credit history, a secured credit card could be a good starting point. With a secured card, you provide a security deposit that serves as your credit limit. Responsible use of a secured card can help you build credit.

5. Apply for different types of cards

Not all credit cards have the same approval criteria. Research cards that are designed for people with credit profiles and financial situations like yours. Consider starter credit cards, retail store cards, or credit-builder cards that cater to folks with limited credit histories.

6. Wait & reapply

If your application was declined due to recent credit inquiries or other factors, consider waiting then reapplying. Avoid the temptation to apply for multiple cards immediately, as this can make your credit situation worse.

7. Ask the pros

If you’re struggling to understand why your application was denied or need guidance on improving your credit, consider seeking advice from a credit counselor or financial advisor. Never hurts to get a professional involved.

Use credit cards responsibly with EarnIn

By taking charge of your pay, you can make better decisions about credit cards, debit cards, and other financial matters. And whether you’re looking to apply for a new credit card or improve your credit score, EarnIn is helpful to have at your side. Our Cash Out tool lets you enjoy payday every day, ensuring you’re prepared for life’s day-to-day expenses and emergencies. And our Credit Monitoring feature allows you to keep a close eye on your credit score any time, for free.

Download EarnIn now and grow your financial momentum — with up to $100 a day and up to $750 a pay period.

Disclaimer: Please note, the material collected in this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or services.

EarnIn is a financial technology company, not a bank. Bank products are issued by Evolve Bank & Trust, Member FDIC. The EarnIn Card is issued pursuant to a license from Visa USA Inc.

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