How to Get Approved for a Credit Card

Find out what credit card companies typically look for

It’s probably happened before—friends brag about the perks that come with owning a credit card. And you’re left wondering how they got one in the first place. After all, you’re interested in a card that works for you too.

So what does it take to get approved? While there’s no way to know for sure whether your credit card application will get the green light, these five tips may help increase your chances.

1. Start Good Credit Habits Early

From car loans to rent to credit cards, staying current on the money you owe and always paying on time can help you build good credit. And credit card companies look at your payment history when they consider your application.

Avoiding late credit card payments isn’t the only good credit habit worth starting early though. Consider these tips too:

  • Pay more than the minimum. Paying more than the minimum amount due—whenever possible—might help you lower your balances more quickly. And that could mean paying less in credit card interest.
  • Stay below your credit limit. Experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30% across all your lines of credit.
  • Review your statements for accuracy. It’s a good idea to make sure you recognize all charges on your credit card statements. And if you’re a Capital One customer, Eno monitors your account around the clock, reaches out if something unusual is spotted and helps you fix it.1
  • Check your credit reports. Your credit scores are based on the information in your credit reports. And that means errors can potentially hurt your credit scores. Learn how to get free copies of your credit reports from And if you spot an error, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has directions about how to dispute credit report errors.
  • Apply only for the credit you need. If you apply for multiple credit cards or loans over a short period of time, lenders may incorrectly think your financial situation has changed for the worse. And those hard inquiries could affect your credit score.

2. Know Your Credit Score

A credit score rates your creditworthiness based on many factors—like the number of recently opened accounts, the latest credit checks and how well you’ve paid your bills. Banks look at that score whenever you apply for a credit card. And a better score could mean you’re more likely to get approved. But keep in mind that banks don’t just look at your score—they consider things like your income and employment too.

One way to stay on top of your credit score is by using CreditWise from Capital One. With CreditWise, you can access your free TransUnion® credit report and weekly VantageScore® 3.0 credit score anytime, without negatively impacting your score. CreditWise is free and available to everyone—not just Capital One customers.2

3. Keep Your Balance in Balance

Your debt-to-income ratio is a simple comparison of how much you owe and how much you earn. Understanding this balance can help you apply for a reasonable amount of credit. That way, you don’t end up with monthly payments you can’t afford. The credit card company may also want to check your debt-to-income ratio before approving your application or setting your credit limit.

4. Check Whether You’re Pre-Approved

Before you apply for a credit card, pre-approval or pre-qualification can help you compare options and find the right fit.

And with pre-approval from Capital One, you can find out whether you’re pre-approved for a credit card before you even apply. It’s quick and only requires some basic info. And it won’t hurt your credit score since it only requires a soft inquiry.

5. Understand That Building Credit Takes Time

When it comes to building credit, there are no shortcuts. Building credit takes time and responsible financial behavior.

But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re establishing credit for the first time or trying to improve your chances of being approved for a credit card. You could consider options like a secured credit card, becoming an authorized user, setting up a joint account or getting a co-signer on a loan.

And some companies have even developed alternative scoring methods to determine creditworthiness—methods that consider information not typically used in credit reporting. So keeping up with things like your rent, phone bill and bank account transactions could help you build credit too.

1Eno is learning all the time and may not catch everything. Eno service outages may occur. Capital One customers are responsible for regularly checking their account statements. Web access is needed to use mobile banking. Check with your service provider for details on specific fees and charges. Texting with Eno means you agree to chat about your account over SMS and receive recurring messages. Message and data rates may apply.  Mobile phone carrier fees for text messages may apply.

Some or all Eno features may not be available to all Capital One customers, depending on the types of accounts held. For example, certain bank accounts are not eligible to text with Eno, and Eno email notifications, app notifications and virtual card numbers from Eno may not be available for certain credit cards.

The Eno browser extension for virtual card numbers is only available in certain web browsers, and enrollment is required. Virtual card numbers are not available for debit cards and some credit cards. 

2Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it can be one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.

The CreditWise Simulator provides an estimate of your score change and does not guarantee how your score may change.

Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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