You can’t have a good credit score without using credit. But with so many credit card offers out there, where do you begin? Those navigating the playing field for the first time wondering, “How can I apply for a credit card?” should know how to conduct your research to get the best credit product for your needs.

First Things First

Before you apply for any credit cards, it’s helpful to do some background work. Here are some preliminary steps you can take:

  1. Know Your Credit Score: Your credit score will give you a sense of how good your credit is. In turn, you can target credit cards for people with your level of credit worthiness. This can significantly narrow your search.
  2. Research Cards: There’s no one best card out there. Instead, there are credit cards that are best for people with your needs. Some cards specifically target students, those looking for everyday rewards, those with lower credit scores, or those who do a lot of traveling. Think about why you’re getting a card, then find one that meets that need.
  3. Compare Cards: Once you have several cards that appear to meet your needs, drill down further to see which one(s) meets your needs best. What rewards do they offer? How easy are the rewards to use? How robust are the security features? Are there bonus services that you think you’ll use? Consider scoring the cards on a matrix to find the best one.

How Can I Apply for a Credit Card and What Do I Need?

Applying for a credit card isn’t actually difficult at all. It’s mostly about finding the right card for you. Once that’s done, it’s a pretty straightforward process. You’ll need all your personal information, including address, Social Security number, and income. You might also need your employer’s information to apply for a credit card.

There are a number of places you can apply for credit cards, including online, over the phone, through the mail, or in person at a local branch for bank cards.

How Do I Know If I’m Approved After Applying?

If your credit score is high enough, you might be approved right away. Otherwise, it may be several weeks before you’re notified through the mail or email. After that, you will receive a physical credit card in the mail, along with the terms and conditions.

What If I’m Declined?

There are a lot of reasons you might have been declined and it’s disappointing no matter what. You can minimize the chances of being declined by doing your research in advance and applying for a card that’s appropriate for your level of experience with credit and creditworthiness.

A major reason you might have been declined is that your credit score doesn’t meet the minimum requirements of the card you applied for. Or perhaps you have a credit report item that’s a red flag for the lender; if so, there may be actions you can take to improve your report.

The good news is that, in some cases, you may be offered an alternate product that’s a better fit for you. This could be a secured card, which can a popular way for people to build their credit to gain access to better credit products.

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.