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What Credit Card Do I Qualify For?

Last Updated: May 10, 2024
6 min read

Key points about: qualifying for credit cards

  1. Your credit history usually impacts the type of credit cards you can get.

  2. Credit card issuers will consider your income when deciding if you qualify for a credit card.

  3. You can check whether you’re pre-approved with no harm to your credit.

If you have a good credit score, you may be able to qualify for a credit card with great rewards, like the Discover it® Cash Back credit card. If you don’t qualify for this Discover it® Card due to a low credit score, you may qualify for other cards.

If your credit score is lower due to missed payments, high levels of debt, or other negative marks on your credit report, you may be limited in the credit cards you qualify for. One way to find out is to check if you have any pre-approval offers for a credit card before you apply.

Did you know?

If you’ve received a credit card offer that says “pre-approved,” that likely means your credit score and financial history match at least some of a card issuer’s criteria.

How do I get pre-approved for a credit card?

You may receive a pre-approval offer, or you can use an online tool to find out what credit cards you may be qualified for before you apply.

Do pre-approvals hurt your credit score?

Pre-approvals use soft inquiries, which don’t affect your credit score because you haven’t applied for credit. It’s important to remember that pre-approval doesn’t always guarantee credit card approval. Once you apply for credit, the lender still must place a hard inquiry on your credit file, which can affect your credit.

Why you should check if you’re pre-approved for a card

Pre-approval means the card issuer feels confident you can be approved for a credit card. Pre-approval gives you these benefits:

You avoid hurting your credit score

Credit card issuers usually place a soft credit inquiry on your credit report when they check whether you're pre-approved for the card, and this doesn't affect your credit score. When you submit an actual application for a credit card, the lender places a hard credit inquiry on your credit file, which can impact your credit score.

You save time by applying only when you know you’re pre-approved for the card

If you receive a pre-approved credit card offer, you’ll likely qualify for the card, unless you have had recent negative changes to your credit report and score. So, you won’t spend time researching and applying for cards that you may be denied.

You can receive unique credit card offers

Also, since pre-approval means a card company won’t ding your credit score when you request offers, you can browse all an issuer’s card options. This means you could compare cards for the best perks, like 0% introductory APR, introductory bonuses, and appealing cash back rewards.

How do lenders decide if I qualify for a credit card?

Your credit cards are essentially loans you get from a credit card issuer, so before approving you for a credit card, credit providers look at your credit history to determine how likely you are to pay your credit card bill. Here are examples of the types of information that a credit card company may review:

Infographic on Information required to apply for a credit card

Credit score

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your credit score tells a lender how likely you are to repay your credit card balance on time. Most FICO® Credit Scores range from 300 to 850 and are calculated based on your unique credit history. Things that affect your FICO® Score include missed credit card payments, credit utilization, age of your credit accounts, and your credit mix. Your credit score helps lenders decide what interest rates to offer you and what credit cards you can get.

If you have good scores, you’re seen as a lower-risk borrower for lenders, which makes you more likely to score favorable interest rates and bonuses on your next card. By contrast, you’ll probably have a hard time qualifying for the best benefits lenders have to offer if you have a lower credit score.


A credit card issuer may use your income to determine whether you get a new credit card and, if so, how much credit they can give you.

There may be other factors such as housing information that an issuer may consider.

How do I find out if I’m pre-approved for a Discover® Card?

The Discover pre-approval tool can help you see if you’re pre-approved with no harm to your credit score.1 Since the request for pre-approval only results in a soft inquiry, there’s no impact to your credit score.

What credit cards can I get with Discover?

The credit cards you qualify for depend on your credit score, your credit history, and your income. People with high credit scores, a positive credit history, and high income can typically qualify for more kinds of credit. While those with a low credit score, missed payments, and low income may be more limited in the type of card they can get.

Once you have an idea of the type of card you may qualify for, you can compare Discover cards against other industry-leading cards to find one that fits best with your spending habits.

What credit score do I need to get a credit card?

The minimum credit score to get a credit card depends on the card. There’s no exact number that your credit score must be to get a credit card.

90% of top lenders use FICO® Credit Scores.2 If you have a low credit score or limited credit history, you still have options. For example, there’s no credit score required to apply for a Discover it® Secured Card.3 Generally, the minimum credit score needed for a secured card is lower than the minimum score you need to qualify for an unsecured credit card, or a credit score may not be required at all.

Similarly, student cards are designed with students in mind who may have little or no credit history. There’s no credit score required to apply for Discover Student credit cards.4

How can I be approved for a secured credit card?

With a secured credit card, you provide a deposit equal to your credit limit, depending on the issuer. This is less risky for the card issuer since they’ll be paid from your deposit if you fail to make your payments. This means that your credit score doesn’t have to be as high to get this type of credit card as compared to an unsecured card.

With a Discover Secured Credit Card, once you show a pattern of paying your monthly credit card bill responsibly, you can get your deposit back after 6 consecutive on-time payments and maintaining good status on all your credit accounts5.

How can I help my chances of getting approved for a credit card?

Pay your bills on time

Credit card issuers want to see that you manage your money well, which means your payment history is crucial. Lenders want to make sure you can pay back your credit card debt. 

Pay down your debt

Lowering your credit utilization ratio (the percentage of your available credit that’s in use) might help your credit score. Your credit utilization ratio is another very important influence on your credit card qualification. Track where your money is going and create a payment plan to help reduce debt.

Don’t apply for too many credit cards at once

Each credit card application generates a hard credit inquiry, which may hurt your credit score. Applying for too many credit cards at the same time can hurt your score enough that one or more card issuers may decide you don’t qualify for the card.

While pre-approval doesn’t impact your credit score because the creditor will place a soft inquiry on your credit report, a hard inquiry can hurt your score. Before you submit your application, you should make sure you want the credit card and you feel confident that you’ll get approved.

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  1. There is no hard inquiry to your credit report to check if you’re pre-approved. If you’re pre-approved, and you move forward with submitting an application for the credit card, it will result in a hard inquiry which may impact your credit score. Receiving a pre-approval offer does not guarantee approval. Applicants applying without a social security number are not eligible to receive pre-approval offers. Card applicants cannot be pre-approved for the NHL Discover Card.

  2. FICO® Credit Score Terms: Your FICO® Credit Score, key factors and other credit information are based on data from TransUnion® and may be different from other credit scores and other credit information provided by different bureaus. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary account holders who have an available score. See Discover.com/FICO about the availability of your score. Your score, key factors and other credit information are available on Discover.com and cardmembers are also provided a score on statements. Customers will see up to a year of recent scores online. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as FICO® Credit Scores, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

  3. No Credit Score Required (Secured Card): Based on 2023 Discover it Secured credit card application data, applicants without a credit score may qualify. You must meet other applicable underwriting criteria. When we evaluate your creditworthiness, we consider all the information you provide on your application, your credit report, and other information. If you have a credit score, we may use that in our evaluation.

  4. No Credit Score Required: Based on the preceding 12 months of Discover Student credit card application data, applicants without a credit score may qualify. You must meet other applicable underwriting criteria. When we evaluate your creditworthiness, we consider all the information you provide on your application, your credit report, and other information. If you have a credit score, we may use that in our evaluation.

  5. Secured Card: Graduation Transparency: Monthly reviews start your seventh month as a customer. We will refund your security deposit if you have made all payments on time for the last six consecutive billing cycles on all your Discover accounts including any loans, and you've remained in “good status” on all credit accounts you are responsible for whether they are Discover accounts or not. “Good status” means: (1) your credit report shows no delinquencies, charge-offs, repossessions, or bankruptcies for the six months prior to our review; and (2) your Discover Secured Card is not in a prohibited status at the time of our review, including, but not limited to: closed, revoked, suspended, subject to tax levy, garnishment, deceased, lost/stolen, or fraud. Monthly reviews may be delayed if you change your payment due date. We typically process your refund in 2-3 business days based on your delivery preference. If you close your account and pay in full, we’ll return your deposit within two billing cycles plus ten days.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.