get a new credit cardSome of the questions we hear from our readers quite frequently are, “Does my income affect my ability to get a new credit card?” and, “What does my credit score need to be to get this credit card?” While there is no concrete answer to either of these questions, both your income and your credit scores are two of the factors credit card issuers take into consideration during the approval process. Keep reading to learn how and why these factors matter and what you can do to help increase your chances of getting approved.

What factors do credit card issuers take into consideration?

There are a number of things lenders may look into before they approve you for a credit card, but here are the most commonly used ones.

Income and employment

When it comes to getting approved for new lines of credit, employment isn’t always necessarily a factor, but income and assets are — most issuers break income down as salary, wages, interest, dividends, rental income or retirement benefits. That’s because credit cards are essentially loans that you are promising to repay, which means if you can’t show proof of income, the credit lender has no way of knowing if you are capable of repaying that loan. This is why credit card applications ask for your annual salary and any assets you may have plus your monthly expenses (e.g., rent and other credit card payments) as a part of their approval process. In fact, because of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (also known as the CARD Act), credit card issuers and other credit lenders have a legal right to know about your source(s) of income before you can open a new credit card or increase your credit limit.

The good news is that you don’t always need to show proof of employment — or your own independent income — to get approved. The CARD Act was revised by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2013 to allow “card issuers to consider third-party income if the applicant has a reasonable expectation to access it” for applicants 21 and older. This means that things like spousal or partner income, investments and child support payments all count as proof of income on credit card applications, so long as the applicant is at least 21 years old and has reasonable access to that income (e.g., living under the same roof). Keep in mind that if you opt to include these means as income, you’re telling the lender that you want it to consider them as a basis for repaying the debt.

Creditworthiness

While credit card issuers generally don’t list the exact credit scores needed for approval, they will list the type of credit required for approval (e.g., excellent, good, average or fair), which gives you a general guideline of what your credit should look like for that particular credit card. If you know for a fact that you have good credit (usually considered scores around 700 or higher), for example, then you probably wouldn’t want to apply for a credit card that requires excellent credit (scores around 750 and up), as you likely won’t be approved. To help increase your chances of getting approved, always make sure you apply for credit cards that fit your credit scores. If you don’t know what your credit scores are or how to check them, read our guide to credit scores.

Other factors

Although these are two of the primary factors that credit card issuers take into consideration when determining who will and won’t get approved, it’s important to note there are other factors they consider, including your credit utilization ratio, other types of loans you have (e.g., a mortgage or an installment loan), the length of your credit history, any recent hard inquiries on your credit reports and other factors that make up your complete financial picture. Some lenders may also look at your current relationship with them to see how you’ve managed it. For example, if you’re behind on payments for a credit card you already own with an issuer, it’s likely not going to accept your new credit card application.

Can I find out why my application was denied?

Approval is ultimately at the discretion of the credit card issuer. That being said, if your credit application is denied, you are legally entitled to know why you got denied. In fact, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires creditors to send an adverse action letter within 30 days to explain why you were denied. We should point out that if you get denied for a credit card, you shouldn’t keep applying for multiple credit cards. Not only will this make you look desperate to lenders, which decreases your chances of getting approved, but it also can have a negative impact on your credit scores, as hard credit inquiries stay on your credit reports — whether or not you are approved for the credit card.

What else should I know before I apply?

While there are a few things you can do to prepare before you apply for a credit card, you won’t really know if you’ll be approved until you actually complete the application. However, knowing where your credit stands by regularly checking your credit reports and credit scores for a month or two before applying and doing things to help keep your credit in good standing can go a long way in making you a better candidate to credit card issuers.

Follow our personal finance blog for more tips and advice on improving your financial health. Ready to get a new credit card? Read our reviews of the best credit cards to find your perfect fit.