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If you’re in the market for a new credit card, it’s tempting to apply for every offer that comes along, especially when they claim you’ve been pre-approved. But it’s important to be smart about your application – that way, you won’t go through the application process (and the impact to your credit) for no reason. Want to see if you pre-qualify without affecting your credit score? Check out our CardMatch feature and get matched with a card that best fits your needs.
When you find the right credit card and you’re ready to apply, do the following to give yourself the best chance of getting approved.
Check your credit score
Always check your credit score before applying for a new card – your score may have changed since the last time you checked. Then, look into the credit threshold of the card you’re interested in – what credit is required in order to be approved? Most rewards cards require a good to excellent score, which starts at about 690, but there are plenty of cards available for fair or average scores.
If your credit score isn’t up to par for the card you want, choose one that is – and resolve to work on the issues pulling your score down. You can always upgrade later.
Consider these cards for bad credit:
Apply for one card at a time
You may be tempted to hedge your bets and apply for a few cards at once. That may work when you’re applying for a job, but when it comes to credit cards, it goes on your record – and it can hurt you.
An analysis of new credit makes up 10 percent of your credit score, and multiple credit inquiries can drag that down. Every time you apply for a credit card, the issuer does a hard inquiry into your credit and dings it in the process. The hit to credit is small and will repair itself in a few months. But you don’t want a lot of applications appearing on your record at once, especially if you have shaky credit to start with.
Be thorough in your application
Your credit score tells card issuers all about your debt and payment history, but it doesn’t tell them about your income. Only you can do that through your application, and it’s a key component of your credit worthiness. Without it, issuers can’t assess your debt-to-income ratio – monthly debt divided by gross monthly income. This ratio is used to measure your ability to handle borrowed money (and to determine your credit limit).
Make sure to include all of your income, including side gigs. Don’t be tempted to over-estimate, though – unless you want to put yourself at risk for credit card fraud.
Follow up with the issuer
If you’re turned down for a card but believe you should qualify, call the card issuer’s reconsideration line. Customer service will walk you through the specifics behind the decision. Have a recent copy of your credit report on hand, and be prepared to make your case. Explain why you chose the card and why you believe you’ll be able to pay it off responsibly. If you’re close enough to getting approved, you may be able to turn the decision around over the phone. Even if you can’t, the conversation may give you a better understanding of what you need to work on.
If one card is a no, find a better fit
Didn’t get approved for the card you wanted? Don’t worry. You can start to improve the areas of your credit report that need work, and in the meantime, you can look for a card that you’re more likely to get approved for based on your credit score or income level. There are plenty of cards available for people with bad credit, You could also consider a secured credit card – one that’s secured by a cash deposit that acts as your credit limit.
Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.