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What Do You Need to Apply for a Credit Card?

Last Updated: June 6, 2023
5 min read

Table of contents

Key points about: what 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.

Did you know?

Suppose you’re just starting to build credit history. In that case, you can consider applying for a secured card, like the Discover it Secured Credit card. You can find out if you’re pre-approved within minutes — without harming your credit score or directly going to an application. Plus, there’s no credit score required to apply.1

See if you’re pre-approved

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: 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 or improve your credit score for those with bad credit, according to the Office of Financial Readiness. A student credit card can also be used to build credit history.

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, including:

  • Full name
  • Social Security number
  • 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 and telephone number, 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? 

Positive factors are 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.

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, you may be approved for one 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, improve your credit rating, and eventually apply for your own card.

Learn more about Credit Cards for No Credit History

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 build credit history since it’s designed for students looking to build a credit history.

Some student cards even come with benefits programs or 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.2 Both 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 history 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.3 You can apply online for this card but aren’t guaranteed approval.


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