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Why Was My Credit Card Application Denied

Last Updated: March 7, 2024
4 min read

Key points about: denied credit card applications

  1. If you had a credit card application denied, creditors must provide a statement with specific reasons as to why.

  2. Common reasons applicants are denied credit cards include low credit scores, no credit history, inadequate ratio of income vs. expenses, and not meeting minimum age requirements.

  3. There are alternatives to standard credit cards to consider if you keep getting denied for credit cards.

When you’re denied for a credit card, especially if you keep getting denied, it may be due to your credit score or credit history. If you understand the factors that cause creditors to decline a credit card application, you can work to address credit issues and build good credit with responsible credit card use, so you won’t keep getting denied for credit cards.

Creditors must tell you why your credit card application was declined

If you’re denied for a credit card or any other type of credit, the creditor is required to send you an adverse action notice that explains why you were denied credit. Once you know the reason your credit card application was declined, you may be able to take steps to fix the problem.

Reasons for a credit card application to be denied

Credit card companies look at several factors when considering your application, and when you’re declined for a credit card, one of these things may be the reason:

Low credit score

If your credit score is low, start by checking your credit report for errors. You can request a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. You can dispute any errors you find. If you don’t see errors, take steps to address any problems in these factors:

  • Missed or late payments: Creditors may report your payment as late if it’s 30 days past due. Paying late makes you a credit risk and increases your chances of being denied credit.
  • Credit card utilization: Your credit utilization ratio compares the amount of credit you use to the amount of credit you have. Using too much of your available credit can negatively affect your credit score.
  • Hard credit inquiries: Each time you apply for a credit card or loan, the creditor files an inquiry to receive your credit score and your credit report. Inquiries may impact your credit score, so it’s best to avoid applying for several credit cards at once.
  • Length of credit history: A long credit history, especially one that shows you’ve paid your bills on time, could make you a stronger candidate for a new credit card.

No credit history

Having no credit history at all means that you may be less likely to be approved for credit cards that are intended for individuals who have an established credit score.

Did you know?

Just because you have no credit history or are rebuilding your credit history, it doesn’t mean you can’t get access to credit. For example, there’s no credit score required to apply for a Discover it® Secured Credit Card.1 And, it could help you build your credit history3 .

If you’re a student, you may be more likely to qualify for a student credit card even if you have no credit history yet. For example, there is no credit score required to apply for Discover Student Credit Cards.2

Income and expenses

Credit card issuers take your income and expenses into account when assessing whether you’ll be able to pay your credit card bill.

If you have a reasonably good credit score but keep getting denied for a credit card, it may be that your annual income is too low or your rent is too high in relation to your income.

Your age

If you’re younger than 18, your application for a credit card will be denied. That’s because one of the requirements to sign up for a credit card is being 18 or over, since 18 is the minimum age to get your own credit card account. But you can still get a credit card if a friend or family member is willing to add you as an authorized user on their card, depending on the issuer.

Alternatives when your credit card applications keep getting denied

If you keep getting denied for credit cards, there are alternative options you can consider.

Apply for a secured card

In some cases, a secured credit card might be your best bet if you had a credit card application denied for a regular card.

If you apply for a secured card and you’re approved, you’ll put down a deposit that’s equal to your credit limit. Then, you can use the secured card as you would any credit card. If you start paying your credit card bill on time, you could build a credit history with responsible use3 and may be approved for regular credit cards in the future.

If you have the Discover it® secured card, you can get your deposit back after six consecutive months of on-time payments and maintaining a good status on all your credit accounts.4

Become an authorized user

A friend or family member can add you as an Authorized User to a Discover® card. When you add a friend or family member as an Authorized User to your Discover® Card, you help them build a credit history, with responsible use.5 

Choose a store credit card

Some retailers offer credit cards that may have less strict application requirements than general credit cards. Retail credit cards may offer lower credit limits than you would get with a standard credit card, but using a retail card responsibly could pave the way to the ability to get approval for a general credit card down the road.

Eventually, after taking steps to put yourself on the right financial path, you can grow more confident when applying for credit cards.

Next steps

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  1. No credit score required to apply: Based on 2022 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.

  2. Student - 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.

  3. Build/Rebuild Credit with responsible use: Discover reports your credit history to the three major credit bureaus so it can help build/rebuild your credit if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact your ability to build/rebuild credit.
  4. Getting your deposit back: 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. When you qualify to upgrade to a standard, ‘unsecured card’, Discover will also consider you for a credit line increase. 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.
  5. Authorized User: Primary account holder is responsible for all charges made by the Authorized User(s). Discover reports the account credit history to the three major credit bureaus as to you and the Authorized User. This can help build the Authorized User’s credit history if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact yours and the Authorized User’s ability to build credit.

  • 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.