Online Credit Card Applications

Individual credit card applications can be filled out online after you choose the card that best suits your circumstances. The type of credit card you chose will partly be determined by your credit score. 

Generally, the better your credit score, the more likely you'll be approved for a credit card. And the higher your credit score, the more options you'll have. For example, having excellent credit opens the door to credit cards with added benefits such as rewards and cash back. On the other hand, if you have a poor credit history, it is very unlikely that you will get approved for a rewards card. And a poor credit history often means higher fees and interest rates.

Research your options before applying

If you don't know your current credit score, you can estimate your credit score with this simulator or access it through a company such as Credit Karma. After you access your credit score, you can decide whether you want to wait to improve your credit, or go ahead and apply for a secured or bad credit card. 

Either way, it helps to investigate the various credit cards that would be available to you. When evaluating the various credit cards, start with the features and benefits first. For example, do you want a rewards or cash-back card? Is a secured card the best option to start rebuilding your credit. To help you narrow down your options, you can check through our various credit card articles for more information on your options.

After you choose the credit card you want, make sure to read the terms and conditions when you get to the description page for that card. The terms and conditions will give you: 

  • specific details about the interest rate you will be charged, 
  • whether there is an promotional interest rate and what the default rate is after the introductory period ends, 
  • whether there will be an annual fee, 
  • APR and fees for balance transfers and cash advances, 
  • how long the grace period is before interest is charged, 
  • what types of penalties and default rates there are, 
  • foreign transaction fees, plus more.  

It's also a good idea to print this information out to keep for future reference until you get your printed disclosure material in the mail.

Filing out the actual credit card application

After you have done your research and chosen the best card for your situation, you want to ensure the website you are visiting is secure before you start filling out the actual credit card application. To do so, you can check that the URL in the address bar begins with the secure https as opposed to http. You can also check for the lock symbol in the address bar (depending on your browser).

When filling out the online form, answer all the questions truthfully and completely. Some information you can expect to provide will include: 

  • Your full name 
  • Social security number 
  • Address 
  • Date of birth 
  • Income and employer 
  • Phone number 
  • Email address

This information is required to verify your identity. Many people are reluctant to give out this information, especially their social security number. If you are applying for a credit card on a secure website hosted by a reputable company, your information should be safe. It's important to note that you will need to be at least 18 to apply for a credit card (so don't lie about this information). You also need to be sure to give a street address (not a PO Box or general delivery) where it asks for your mailing address.

Providing Information on Your Finances

Financial institutions look at different aspects of your credit history before granting credit. So be sure to include all sources of income, as this will affect whether you will be approved or not. Extra sources of income can include money from part-time jobs, disability benefits, child support or alimony, income from your spouse, etc. Also pay attention to the earning period requested on the application. Is it for monthly or annually? Make sure your answer reflects what is being asked for.

You will probably also be asked for your housing expenses and whether you rent or pay a mortgage. This is an indicator of how much money you will have available to pay for a credit card balance. You may also be asked about balances you have on other credit cards or various loans. This helps determine you income/debt ratio. The lower your ratio, the more likely it is you'll be approved. 

On a different note, if you're considering buying a a home or automobile in the near future, it might be best to hold off on applying for a credit card until after you're approved for this major purchase. This is because when you apply for a new line of credit, it can cause your credit score to decrease temporarily (you can read more about factors that influence your credit score). It would be a shame for a credit card application to result in you being turned down for a mortgage or auto loan.

Final Thoughts on Credit Card Applications

After filling everything out, go back over all your information to be sure that it is correct before you click the submit button. Once your information is verified, you will usually be told how long it will take to process your request. If it doesn't say how long it will take, you can usually count on receiving either an approval or denial from the credit card company within two to three weeks.

Even though different credit card issuers have different applications, the basics of applying online for a credit card are generally the same. Understanding how the process works can help increase your chances of getting approved for the card you want. 

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