So, you’ve decided to apply for a new credit card. That’s good news for you — or, at least it should be. A new credit card can benefit you in myriad ways, after all, from helping you build credit to letting you earn rewards for each dollar you spend. You may even be earning a hefty signup bonus from a rewards credit card right away, and that’s always a win.
Before you sit down to fill out your application, however, it’s important to gather the information you’ll need to see it through. While some card issuers may stray slightly from this list, here’s everything you may need to fill out when you apply for a credit card online or inside a brick and mortar bank branch:
- Address of residence
- Date of birth
- Employment information
- Housing or rent payment amount
- Social Security number
- Email address
- Phone number
- Type of bank accounts you have
Once your application is complete and you hit the “submit” button (or hand your application to a banker), the powers that be will look over your information to determine whether you’re creditworthy enough to qualify. Whether you apply for a credit card online or in a physical bank branch, you could even get a decision within a few minutes time.
6 tips to help you apply for a credit card
But, hold up. Shouldn’t you learn some basics before you fill out your application?
Before you pull the trigger, it can help to have a strategy in place — and an idea of what not to do. The following tips can help you get approved for the card you want, score a larger line of credit, and avoid some of the pitfalls of the application process.
Make sure you’re applying for the right kind of credit card
No matter what you do, don’t apply for the first credit card you see! Because there are so many cards with their own share of unique perks, it’s crucial to conduct due diligence to find the right card for your needs.
You may want a cash-back credit card to score easy rewards on your everyday spending with no annual fee, a 0% intro APR card for a big purchase, or perhaps you need a balance transfer card to pay down debt. Different cards are geared to consumers with different goals, so don’t settle until you find one that meets yours.
Bad credit? Consider a secured credit card one that lets you get pre-qualified online
If your credit history isn’t very good, it’s also worth noting you may have to settle for card that’s less than ideal. This could mean getting a secured credit card that requires a cash deposit, but it could also mean settling on a lower tier unsecured card without any perks.
Also note that some credit cards let you get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it possible to see if you can qualify before you proceed with a full application.
Find out your credit score ahead of time
Maybe you think you can qualify for a new card with excellent credit — one with a robust rewards programs and a ton of valuable travel rewards. That’s good news, but it’s wise to find out for sure.
While some card issuers are loose with the rules, the top cash back rewards and travel credit card offers typically go to consumers with “very good” or “excellent” credit — or any FICO score of 740 or above.
The best way to find out whether you can qualify for one of the best credit cards is taking a peek at your credit score. Is it good? Is it bad? There’s only one way to find out.
Fortunately, there are plenty of services that let you see one of your credit scores — or an estimate of your credit score — online for free.
Only submit data through secure websites
Major banks that offer credit cards offer secure application portals that encrypt and protect your personal information, but you should always check.
Discover says the best way to protect yourself is to make sure the URL in the address bar for your application is “https” instead of “http.” The extra “s” proves your data will be transmitted over a secure connection, whereas applying without it could leave you at risk.
Be honest on your application
Think a little white lie on your credit card application is no big deal? Think again. Credit card fraud could lead to up to $1 million in fines or 30 years in prison, although those big consequences are typically reserved for fraud on a massive scale, don’t do it.
Credit card issuers may not be able to detect small lies — and they may not even care too much — but it’s always better to be honest and forthcoming whenever you apply for a loan or open a new account.
Include your total household income amount, not just what you earn
Finally, there’s one provision that can help you on the income side of the equation when you apply for a credit card. Thanks to updates made to credit card regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2013, credit card issuers can consider “household income” amounts on a credit card application instead of individual income amounts. This makes it easier for stay-at-home spouses to qualify for their own credit cards whether they earn an income or not, but it also makes it easier for individuals to qualify for higher credit limits if their household income is higher.