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What Do You Need to Apply for a Credit Card?

Published March 24, 2022
5 min read

Key points:

  1. Understanding the minimum requirements for getting a credit card, as well as the information card providers will ask for, can help you prepare a credit card application.

  2. There are certain factors that increase the chances of your credit card application being accepted.

  3. If you don’t have your credit card application approved at first, there are other options that might help you build your credit history until you’re ready to apply again.

How to apply for a credit card


To apply for a credit card, you’ll need to submit personal and financial information to the credit card issuer. Applying itself is easy — most lenders let you fill out applications online. Whether you get approved depends on your past credit history, income, and other eligibility factors .

If you’re just starting to build credit, you can consider applying for a secured card, like the Discover it Secured Credit card, and choose to check if you’re pre-approved within minutes — without harming your credit score or directly going to an application. In both cases, a hard inquiry will be placed on your credit report if you apply for an offer.

Requirements to get a credit card

In the U.S., you can apply for your own credit card as soon as you turn 18. But if you’re under 21, you will need to show you have independent income. If you’re 21 or older, you may include another person’s income that is available to you.

You’ll have additional card options if you have good credit. But while unsecured credit cards typically require a higher credit score, others cards have less stringent requirements. Some secured and student credit cards, for example, are designed for users with no or limited credit history.

Information to submit on your credit card application

When applying for a credit card, you’ll need to fill out identifying information that issuers use to check your creditworthiness, including:

  • Full name
  • Social Security number (though an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number sometimes works, too)
  • Birth date
  • Address (and how long you’ve lived there)
  • Annual income
  • Current employer (and how long you’ve worked there).

You may also want to include an email address ,so your issuer can get in touch with you. And some lenders may ask for insights into your financial assets.

Card issuers may also want to know whether you own or rent your home, and the amount of your monthly mortgage or monthly rent payment..

What makes your credit card application more likely to be approved?

A good credit score may boost your chances of approval, and also makes you more likely to qualify for lower interest rates, and cards that offer higher cash back rewards on purchases, and other perks.

How do you know if your score makes the cut? Positive factors are maintaining a history of paying past credit bills on time and in full, keeping a low credit utilization ratio, and carrying little or no debt.

You can request a This lets you identify any factors that might stand in the way of getting approved. You can then take steps to correct any issues before applying for a new card. If you don’t have a credit score, keep your eye out for options that don’t require credit history, like some secured credit card or student credit card.

Beyond your credit score, you’re also more likely to be approved if you have sufficient income. Also, if you’re a current cardholder, keep in mind that a high debt-to-income ratio is a red flag for lenders, as it suggests you don’t earn enough to pay off other balances.

Can you get a credit card if you don’t meet the requirements?

If you don’t meet all the requirements for an unsecured credit card, you may be approved for one with a higher interest rate and lower credit limit. But there’s also a chance you might get denied outright.

If you are concerned about being denied or want to build your credit before submitting an application, you can consider becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account. This way, you get access to the primary cardholder’s line of credit, and their account becomes a part of your credit history. If the primary cardholder makes on-time payments each month and you use the credit card responsibly, you can build your credit history and eventually apply for your own card.1

But there are other routes toward building a credit history.

Student Credit Cards

If you’re in college, a student credit card is designed for first-time cardholders looking to build a credit history. Some of them even come with benefits programs.

Take the Discover it Student Cash Back card, which offers rewards on every purchase, and the Discover it Student Chrome cards which gives you 2% cash back on gas stations and restaurants on up to $1000 in combined purchases each quarter2. Both of these cards also let you sign up for reminders to pay on time and other helpful alerts.

Secured Credit Cards

Another credit-building option a secured credit card. This requires you to put down a security deposit, which then (usually) becomes the value of your monthly credit limit.

Keep in mind that this is an actual credit card that reports your transactions to all three credit bureaus. Late or missed payments can hurt you as much as responsible use can help you. And if you don’t pay off your balance when you close the account, your lender will keep your deposit.

You can usually apply for these cards online, and you aren’t guaranteed approval.

Many of these cards provide few perks, but the Discover it Secured Credit card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.2 There’s no annual fee, and you can get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.3 You can apply for this card online.

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