How to get approved for a credit card

Whether it’s to earn rewards, build credit or some other reason, if you decide to get a new credit card, there’s probably one big question on your mind: What does it take to be 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 before you apply for a credit card.

Key takeaways

  • Practicing good credit habits, like staying below your credit limit, is one way to improve your chances of getting approved for a credit card.
  • Card issuers might look at how your debt compares to your income, so lowering your ratio could help before applying for a credit card.
  • Checking to see whether you’re pre-approved for credit cards can help you find out which ones you may be eligible for. And it doesn’t hurt your credit score.
  • Even if you’re still building your credit, there may be a credit card for you. A secured card is one option, and you may be able to eventually graduate to an unsecured card. 

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5 ways to improve your chances of approval for a credit card

Before you submit your credit card application, consider these five tips that can help you get approved.

1. Use credit responsibly

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—no matter where you are on your credit journey. And credit card issuers may look at your payment history when they consider your application.

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

2. Monitor your credit scores and credit reports

Credit scores rate your creditworthiness based on many factors—like the number of recently opened accounts and your payment history. Card issuers typically look at scores and your credit history when you apply for a credit card. The better your scores, the more likely you may be to get approved. 

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 AnnualCreditReport.com. And if you spot an error, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has information about how to dispute credit report errors.

You could also use CreditWise from Capital One. With CreditWise, you can access your free TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 credit score anytime, without negatively impacting your score. CreditWise is free and available to everyone—not just Capital One cardholders.

3. Be aware of your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio

Your DTI ratio is a simple comparison of how much you owe and how much you earn. Credit card issuers may also want to check your DTI ratio before approving your application or setting your credit limit. So lowering your DTI ratio could help your chances of being approved.

4. See whether you’re pre-approved

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

With the Capital One pre-approval tool, you can see what card offers you may be eligible for before you apply. It’s simple and straightforward—and you could receive a response in as little as 60 seconds. It requires some basic information and won’t hurt your credit score since it uses a soft inquiry.

5. Understand that building credit takes time

There are no shortcuts to building credit. It takes time and responsible financial behavior. Even if now isn’t the right time for the credit card you hoped for, there are other ways to build credit. You could consider options like applying for a secured credit card, becoming an authorized user, setting up a joint account or applying for a credit-builder loan.

So-called alternative scoring methods are also sometimes used to help determine creditworthiness. So keeping up with bills for rent and cellphones could help you build credit if the activity is reported to credit bureaus.

Credit card approval FAQ

Check out these frequently asked questions about getting approved for a credit card:

If your application is declined, lenders are required to tell you why. Some common reasons for not getting approved for a credit card include:

Keep in mind that Capital One pre-approval can help you find which credit cards you may be eligible for. And while it doesn’t guarantee approval, it can help you apply with greater certainty. 

If you’re applying for a new credit card and have low credit scores, there may still be options for getting a credit card. For example, you could consider a secured credit card like the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit

Whether you get approved for a particular credit card depends on a variety of factors. Credit card issuers typically look at creditworthiness when they’re reviewing applications. If you’re working to build or rebuild your credit, a secured credit card could be a good option. And if you’re a college student, you might want to apply for a student credit card.

There’s not necessarily a best credit card—it’s more about what’s best for you. And that depends on your individual needs and situation. But as you’re credit card shopping, it’s a good idea to compare the APR, any fees and whether there are rewards.

Getting approved for a credit card in a nutshell

It can be exciting to get a new credit card. But before you submit your application, there are some things you could do that might help you get approved.

Building credit takes time. But you can practice good credit habits with existing accounts to get started. That means doing things like paying on time and keeping your credit utilization ratio low. 

Before you apply, see whether you’re pre-approved with Capital One. It’s a way to check for credit card offers with no impact on your credit score.

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