Applying for Credit Cards Online: What You Need to Know
How do I know when it's safe or smart to apply?
Many people often wonder if it is safe to apply for a credit card online. Applying for a credit card online has several benefits including the ability to browse cards based on your credit quality and the opportunity to compare multiple offers. However, you should take some precautions to ensure your personal data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Here are some tips to help your application go smoothly and increase your chances of approval.
Before you apply ask yourself these questions:
- Why are you getting the card?
- How do you plan to use it?
- Are you looking to build or rebuild your credit score?
- Will you be paying off your credit card balance every month?
- How much can you afford to spend each month?
- Do you want to earn rewards for everyday spending or in particular categories?
- What are the potential fees?
- Is your credit good enough to get approved?
How applying for a credit card affects your credit score.
Before you apply for a new credit card, it’s important to understand how it will affect your credit score. Every credit card application results into a hard inquiry into your credit, which means that creditors can see the inquiry or your credit report. The impact from applying for credit cards varies from person to person based on their unique credit histories. According to FICO, credit inquiries have a small impact on one's FICO score. For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO score. However, inquiries can have a greater impact if you have few accounts or a short credit history.1
Online research is the key to finding the best credit card for you. A few online searches among issuers can provide valuable information. You can find cards tailored to your credit score and find the best credit card rewards program for you from generous cash back, travel rewards and no annual fees.
Consider your lifestyle.
If you want to earn rewards for everyday spending on gas, groceries and restaurants you will want to look for a card offering the highest cash back in those categories. However, if you are a frequent traveler, you will want to look for a card featuring no foreign transaction fees, a good miles to point value, and a variety of ways to redeem for travel.
Look closely at pre-approved offers.
Just because you have been pre-approved for a credit card doesn’t mean that it will be a good fit. Always read the terms and conditions carefully. If you received a pre-approved offer for a 0% APR promo rate make sure you know the standard purchase APR and any additional fees that apply. It’s also important to keep in mind that pre-approved status is no guarantee you will receive the card.
Look for security.
The most important way to protect your personal information when applying for credit cards online is to ensure the website is secure. You should always make sure that the URL in the address bar is “https” rather than http. The “https” in the URL ensures your data will be sent over a secure connection. A good rule of thumb is to avoid applying with a company you are unfamiliar with and be wary of applying for a card that sent you an offer via email.
State your actual income.
When you apply for a card, all details have to reflect your current financial and personal situation. If something will be changing in a few weeks (e.g. you are getting a pay raise or starting a new job) you still need to state the details that currently apply to you otherwise your application will be considered invalid. Pay attention to the period of earnings you need to provide (e.g. weekly or monthly) and whether the amounts include or exclude tax. If you receive bonuses or commission, check to see if this will be accepted or if you can only use your base pay. You also may be able to include income that you have reasonable access to, even if you don’t earn it yourself.
Take your time.
It’s important to pay attention to what is required in each field. Mistakes like mixing up your first and last names or incorrectly entering your income can result in a processing delay or even a declined application.
If a section of the application is not explained clearly and you are unsure of what to enter, contact the credit card provider and get them to clarify it for you. Do not take a guess and risk giving the wrong information because it could have a negative effect on your application, causing it to be delayed or even declined.
While every credit card application is different, understanding the application process and how to avoid common mistakes can increase your chances of approval and set you up for greater financial success.
1 Credit Inquiries, MyFico.com
Discover card believes that consumers should be armed with the information they need to help them make informed credit decisions.