How To Get A Credit Card: Everything You Should Know

Applying for a credit card isn’t always a straightforward process. Before hitting that “Apply Now” button, consumers should take into consideration the different factors that can influence their ability to get approved for a new account. Things such as credit score and income play a huge role when banks processes an application.

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How To Get A Credit Card

There are four main ways through which you can apply for a credit card: online, over the phone, in branch and through a targeted mail offer. In terms of the benefits you receive, there is very little variation between these methods.

Targeted offers have the potential to be the most or least rewarding, depending on what the issuer presents you with. For example, some individuals receive offers for the The Platinum Card® from American Express in the mail with a 100,000 Membership Rewards welcome bonus. If you apply online, however, the card comes with just a 60,000 point offer that you get for spending at least $5,000 within the first 3 months of card membership. When you get a targeted offer through the mail, it’s always a good idea to check whether better deals are available online.

The advantage of applying for a credit card at a bank’s brick and mortar location is that a banker may help push through your application. If you have a previous relationship with the bank, they may contact a reconsideration line on your behalf and make the case for why you should get approved for a card. This can especially make the difference for a consumer with bad credit or little credit history to their name. 

What Do You Need To Have To Get Approved For A Credit Card?

In order to apply for most credit cards, you will be required to have either a credit score (sometimes referred to as a FICO score), a source of income, monetary assets, or a combination of all three. Generally, applicants need to also be above the age of 21. Those who are between 18 and 21 can still apply, however, they are required to prove financial independence or have a parent co-sign the application.

FICO scores are the chief factor in determining whether or not you can qualify for a credit card. Before applying for a new card, one should check their score in order to narrow down their choices. If you apply for credit cards outside of your FICO range, not only can you get rejected, but your credit score will also take a hit.

Student and secured credit cards don’t have any credit score requirements, and are generally the easiest to get. Both of these credit card types will still require you to have a source of income or savings. There is no getting around this requirement since banks are federally mandated to adhere to it. Before issuing a new line of credit, the financial institution needs to verify whether or not the customer will be able to pay at least the minimum amount due -- this is why income or a substantial savings is mandatory.

Secured credit cards go one step further and require consumers to submit a security deposit. In most cases, the line of credit issued will equal the amount of the security deposit. In the event that a cardholder cannot pay back their debt, this deposit becomes forfeit, and their account is shut down. On the other hand, if the cardholder exhibits financially responsible behavior, such as paying bills on time, many of these cards can eventually be upgraded to a regular credit card, and the security deposit can be refunded.

What To Do When You Get Denied A Credit Card: Reconsideration Lines

Even if you are not initially approved for a particular credit card, you still have the ability to try and get the decision reversed. To do this, you must call one of the reconsideration lines for the bank’s credit card department. There you will speak with an agent and can find out why you were rejected for a particular card, and whether anything can be done to change the decision.

Below is a table with some of the largest U.S. credit card issuers and their reconsideration phone numbers. These have a tendency to change frequently. If you call one of the numbers listed below and it doesn't work, you can always call the issuer's application number and ask to be transferred to the recon department.

IssuerReconsideration Line
American Express (866) 314-0237
Barclaycard (888) 232-0780
Bank of America (866) 811-4108
Chase (888) 245-0625
Citi (800) 695-5171
Discover (888) 676-3695
Capital One (800) 625-7866
US Bank (800) 947-1444
Wells Fargo (866) 412-5956

Note that after you are rejected for a credit card, your credit score takes a temporary hit. As a result, it's not a good idea to apply for another credit card one after another -- your odds of getting approved are likely to decrease as you continue to do this.

Becoming An Authorized User

If you don’t have the requirements necessary to obtain a credit card, one option available to you is becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account. Doing so will give you a credit card with your name printed on it, and help you establish a credit history. There is zero risk to you if you become an authorized user. The main accountholder is still responsible for all the debt.

Before going down this route, you should make sure that the issuer you would apply through reports their authorized users to one of the three credit bureaus. Otherwise, opening the credit account will not result in any of your credit activity being added to your record. Simply having a credit card and it not being reported will not aid in improving your ability to qualify for your own account in the future. Luckily, most of the nation's largest credit card issuers report authorized users to either TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian.

Taking On A Co-Signer

Another option to those who cannot qualify for a credit card on their own is to open up an account with a co-signer. If this other individual has a good credit score, it will drastically improve your chances of getting approved.

A co-signer is different from an authorized user in that both parties share the responsibility over the debt. This has both good and bad consequences. If your co-signer ends up not using their credit card responsibly, it can have a negative impact on your credit score. However, at the same time, being a co-signer gives you more opportunity to increase your own credit score as it carries more weight on your credit report than being an authorized user.

How To Get A Credit Card As An Immigrant

Credit cards are not restricted to U.S. citizens only. All that is required at the time of application is a social security number and a valid U.S. address. If you just immigrated to this country, chances are you may not have a credit score or SSN, and will be required to apply for a secured credit card. Even if you had a credit score in the country you immigrated from it cannot be transferred to the United States.

A permanent U.S. address is the other requirement. Those who frequently travel to the United States for short periods of time will not be able to apply for a credit card.

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