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What Do You Need to Apply for a Credit Card?

Last Updated: May 17, 2024
5 min read

Key points about: what do you need to get a credit card

  1. Understanding the requirements for getting a credit card and the information card providers ask for can help you prepare a credit card application.

  2. Certain factors 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 must submit personal and financial information to the credit card issuer. Applying for a credit card is easy — most lenders let you complete applications online. Whether you get approved depends on your past credit history, income, and other eligibility factors.

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 must show the credit card issuer that you have your own source of income that doesn’t include the income or assets of anyone else, though there are a few exceptions. For example, you may be able to include income regularly deposited into your account, including a joint account. You may be able to also include the income and assets of your spouse or domestic partner if you live in one of the following Community Property States, according to the Office of Veterans Affairs: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin.

If you already have good credit, you may have access to a wider variety of card options, such as unsecured cards. That’s because unsecured credit cards typically have credit score requirements. On the other hand, secured and student credit cards may be more accessible because they tend to have less stringent requirements. 

For example, some secured and student credit cards are designed for users with no or limited credit history. That's why, with responsible use, secured cards can be used to build your credit history, according to the Office of Financial Readiness. A student credit card can also be used to build credit history.

See if you're pre-approved

With no harm to your credit Score3

Information to submit on your credit card application

When applying for a credit card, you’ll need to fill out personal information that credit card companies use to check your creditworthiness, which may include:

  • 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 card issuer can contact you. 

A credit card company may ask for information on other financial assets and instruments you have access to, like if you have a savings account.

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

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

You may boost your chances of approval if you have excellent credit or even a good credit score. Good credit also makes you more likely to qualify for a lower interest rate. Plus, you could be eligible for a rewards card or a credit account with other perks that you can use to earn rewards for eligible purchases. 

How do you know if your score makes the cut? 

Factors with a positive impact on your credit score include maintaining a history of paying past credit card bills on time, paying off your credit card balance in full, keeping a low credit utilization ratio, and carrying little or no credit card debt. 

You’re more likely to be approved for a credit card if you have sufficient income. If you’re a current cardmember, 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 your credit card balance.

If you don’t yet have a credit score, keep your eye out for options that don’t require a credit history, like a secured credit card or student credit card.

It's good to remember that if factors stand in the way of credit approval, you can correct issues before applying for a new card. For example, if you have a bad credit score due to an error on your credit report, you can submit a dispute in writing to the appropriate credit bureau.

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, credit card issuers may offer you options with a higher interest rate and lower credit limit. Though, there’s also a chance you may be denied altogether.

If you're concerned about being denied for a credit card and want to build your credit history or improve your credit score before submitting a credit card application, consider becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account. This would give you access to the primary cardmember’s line of credit, and their account becomes a part of your credit history. Suppose the primary cardmember makes on-time payments each month, and the credit card is used responsibly. In that case, you can build your credit history and eventually apply for your own card.

There are also a few other routes toward building a credit history.

Student Credit Cards

If you’re in college, a student credit card could be the right credit card to begin building credit history since it's designed for students looking to build a credit history.

Did you know?

Some student cards offer credit card rewards. Take the Discover it® Student Cash Back card, which offers rewards on every purchase, and  the Discover it® Student Chrome card, you can earn 2% cash back on gas stations and restaurants on up to $1000 in combined purchases each quarter.1

Discover cards also let you sign up for reminders to pay on time and other helpful alerts to avoid missing payments and other common credit card mistakes.

Secured Credit Cards

Another credit card for building credit history is a secured credit card. This requires you to put down a security deposit at account opening, which then (usually) becomes the value of your monthly credit limit.

Remember that this is an actual credit card, so the account activity will be reported to any or all of the three credit bureaus and can impact your credit score

Late or missed payments can hurt you as much as responsible use can help you. And if you don’t pay off your credit card balance when you close the account, your lender could keep some or all of your deposit.

Many secured cards provide few perks. The Discover it® Secured Credit card has 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.2 You can apply online for this card but aren't guaranteed approval.

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  1. You earn a full 2% Cashback Bonus® on your first $1000 in combined purchases at Gas Stations (stand-alone), and Restaurants each calendar quarter. Calendar quarters begin January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. Purchases at Gas Stations and Restaurants over the quarterly cap, and all other purchases, earn 1% cash back. Gas Station purchases include those made at merchants classified as places that sell automotive gasoline that can be bought at the pump or inside the station, and some public electric vehicle charging stations. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets, supercenters, and wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Restaurant purchases include those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, fast-food locations, and restaurant delivery services. Purchases must be made with merchants in the U.S. To qualify for 2%, the purchase transaction date must be before or on the last day of the offer or promotion. For online purchases, the transaction date from the merchant may be the date when the item ships. Rewards are added to your account within two billing periods. Even if a purchase appears to fit in a 2% category, the merchant may not have a merchant category code (MCC) in that category. Merchants and payment processors are assigned an MCC based on their typical products and services. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Certain third-party payment accounts and digital wallet transactions may not earn 2% if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details or a qualifying MCC. Learn more at See Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information.

  2. Cashback Match: We’ll match all the cash back rewards you’ve earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods. You’ve earned cash back rewards only when they’re processed, which may be after the transaction date. We will not match: rewards that are processed after your match period ends; statement credits; rewards transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts; or rewards for accounts that are closed. This promotional offer may not be available in the future and is exclusively for new cardmembers. No purchase minimums.

  3. 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.

  • 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.