Credit cards are undeniably useful, particularly in a financial emergency. They're also a convenient alternative to carrying cash and, if managed responsibly, can boost your credit score. Of course, first you have to be approved for a card.
Applying for a credit card in the Digital Age is exceptionally easy – some would argue it's too easy. With most credit card applications, you supply a few personal details and click "Submit." But getting approved for a credit card is a challenge. Here a few tips to improve your chances of getting accepted for a credit card:
1. Get to Know Your Credit Report
If you don't know your credit report and its associated credit score, you've got problems. Without this information, you don't really have a complete picture of your financial health, what steps you need to take to make improvements, or your likelihood of getting accepted for your chosen card.
It's easier than ever to access your credit report and score, and it's not terribly expensive. By reviewing your credit report, you'll know whether your score is poor (300 to 629), average (630 to 689), good (690 to 719), or excellent (720 and above), and you'll have a better idea which cards are the best choice to apply for given your financial situation. Another plus of being on top of your credit report is that you can qualify for a better interest rate as well as top tier perks, incentives and rewards.
2. Eliminate Errors
With a copy of your credit report in hand, you can quickly spot erroneous information. Occasionally, mistakes happen: a debt that doesn't belong to you appears on your file, or perhaps a debt that you've already paid is still showing as outstanding. These kinds of errors negatively impact your credit score and reduce your chances for being approved.
It's important to get this information expunged as soon as possible. Contact the credit bureau that's showing erroneous information along with the company or organization that provided the inaccurate information to the bureau. Identify the entries you believe to be incorrect and explain why. You'll also likely need to provide copies (not originals) of any documentation that supports your argument. You can visit myFICO to learn more about disputing entries on your credit report.
3. Do Your Research
Whatever you do, don't just apply for any and every credit card you come across. It's vital that you do your research. You can use online comparisons and eligibility checkers to narrow down the best card options. Make use of your credit report. Look at your score, the positive and negative entries on your report, then review the eligibility requirements for the cards you're considering.
You want to be choosy about the cards you apply for because each application for credit shows on your credit report, and multiple applications have a negative impact. They can indicate possible financial difficulties or that you are at risk of financial difficulty or excessively using the card. In other words, it smells of desperation.
For a lender, that makes the applicant high risk. So, only apply for one or two cards that you feel you're likely to be accepted for. For example, if you want a card with a low rate and rewards, you'll most likely need excellent to very good credit. If your credit score is below the range considered to be good, don't waste your time filling out the application.
4. Consider a Secure Card
If you have bad credit or no credit, it's unlikely you'll be accepted for a card of any kind, although you may qualify for one with exceptionally high, unfavorable interest rates. In these circumstances, it's imperative that you start building a solid, positive credit history.
Consider a secured credit card. These cards require a cash deposit that becomes your credit line. For example, if you deposit $500, you have a $500 line of credit. But, again, it's vital that you shop around. Choose a card that has fair, not exorbitant fees, and one that reports to all three credit bureaus.
Some institutions allow you to increase your deposit, while others reward you with a higher credit limit or a regular credit card, but only after a set period, during which you demonstrate financial maturity by consistently paying your balance on time.
5. Reduce Existing Debt
Credit should be used wisely. It's not about maxing out, then paying off your credit cards each month. Ideally, you should be using 30 percent or less of your total available credit. Even if you pay your balance in full each month, because some credit card companies report your balance to the credit bureaus, you'll still have a comparatively high credit utilization percentage. So, bring your balances to under 30 percent of your available credit line and keep them there.
6. Make Payments On Time
Pay your bills on time. Even if it's a negligible amount, missing a tiny payment can have a big, negative impact on your credit record. You want potential lenders to see that you always pay your creditors on time. People who pay late are more likely to default and are therefore a riskier proposition for lenders.
7. Consolidate Multiple Balances
Don't clutter your credit report with lots of small balances on multiple credit cards. According to John Ulzheimer, a nationally acclaimed credit expert and former employee of both FICO and Equifax, nuisance balances adversely affect your credit rating.
According to Ulzheimer, one of the factors lenders look at is how many cards you have and how many of those cards have outstanding balances. Therefore, even small balances can have a negative influence. So, remove small outstanding balances and stick to just one or two cards for your everyday purchasing needs.