Applying for a credit card can be intimidating, as you may have heard all sorts of information and hearsay of varying degrees of accuracy and might not know what to believe. You’ll want to be aware of all the information required when applying for a credit card and if submitting an application affects your credit score. Once you know what you need, you can fill out a Discover credit card application online in just a few minutes.

To help ensure that you’re prepared for the application process, consider these 9 tips:

  1. Ask Yourself These Questions
  2. Applying Affects Your Credit Score
  3. Look For Security
  4. Research
  5. Consider Your Lifestyle
  6. Examine Pre-Approved Offers
  7. Be Accurate
  8. Take Your Time
  9. Get Clarification

1. Ask Yourself These Questions

  • Why are you getting the card?
  • How do you plan to use it?
  • Are you looking to reach personal goals for 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?

2. Applying 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 on 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® Credit Score. For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO® Credit Score.  However, inquiries can have a greater impact if you have few accounts or a short credit history.

3. 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.

4. Research

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.

5. 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.

6. Examine Pre-Approved Offers

Just because you have a pre-qualify credit card offer 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 percent APR intro 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 not a guarantee you will receive the card if you don’t meet the issuer’s credit standards when you apply. 

7. Be Accurate

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.

8. 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.

9. Get Clarification

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 may increase your chances of approval and set you up for financial success.

Published February 17, 2015.

Updated April 22, 2020.

FICO® Credit Score Terms: Your FICO® Credit Score, key factors and other credit information are based on data from TransUnion® and may be different from other credit scores and other credit information provided by different bureaus. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary account holders who have an available score. See Discover.com/FICO about the availability of your score. Your score, key factors and other credit information are available on Discover.com and cardmembers are also provided a score on statements. Customers will see up to a year of recent scores online. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as FICO® Credit Scores, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

If you prefer not to receive your FICO® Credit Score just call us at 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683). Please give us two billing cycles to process your request. To learn more, visit Discover.com/FICO.

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.