boost your credit card approval chances with these tips

Updated: November 21, 2019

You may have set your sights on a certain credit card, but understanding the process behind your application and how it’s reviewed is a must.

Credit issuers don’t have an exact formula for their decisions, which can sometimes leave applicants confused as to what determines whether they’re approved or not. One thing is for sure — your credit score is the most critical factor in the eyes of credit issuers, so a trend of responsible financial habits will look best on your application.

Credit issuers will look into delinquent accounts, income, outstanding debts and your credit history in the review process. There are a few other tricks that can increase your chances of being approved, so keep reading to find out how you can give your card applications a little push in the right direction.

5 steps to boost your odds of approval

  1. Pay off your outstanding debt
  2. Apply for credit cards within your credit range
  3. Don’t apply for a lot of credit cards at once
  4. Include all of your income
  5. Improve your credit score

1. Pay off your outstanding debt

If you’re carrying debt and have the means to do so, it may be a good idea to put that money toward an extra-large debt payment. The amount of money you collectively owe — often expressed as your credit utilization ratio — determines a whopping 30% of your credit score, which is one of the key components credit issuers look at when assessing a credit card application.

For comparison, the only other factor that has more influence on your score is your payment history, weighted at 35%. Your outstanding debt is especially important if you owe money to the same financial institution you’re applying for a credit card with, as most lenders are understandably hesitant about extending more credit to a customer who has already borrowed from them (and hasn’t paid the money back).

After you make a payment toward your debt, keep in mind that it will not reflect on your credit reports until your lender updates your credit information with the credit bureaus (this typically happens once per month at the end of your billing cycle). As such, this strategy is best employed several weeks to a month ahead of when you intend to apply for a card.

2. Apply for cards in your credit range

Generally speaking, the most attractive credit card offers require healthy credit to qualify. Every credit card has requirements dictating the credit scores you need for approval, often broken up into ranges such as average to excellent.

If you apply for a credit card outside of your credit range, you’ll most likely be denied. Additionally, your score may suffer a small hit of a few points due to the hard credit inquiry issuers perform during the customer evaluation process.

The good news is that there are credit cards available for people in every credit range. Even if your credit score is in the fair to poor range (about 620 and below), you can still sign up for a secured credit card to build your credit history. It probably won’t have some of the nicer credit card perks like intro bonuses or 0% intro APR periods, but if used responsibly, these cards can help you raise your credit score and, in turn, open the door for exciting card offers in the future.

3. Don’t apply for a lot of credit cards at once

Besides dinging your credit score when you apply for a new credit card, hard credit inquiries show up on your credit report and stay there for up to two years — meaning every company that checks your credit will be able to see how many cards you’ve recently applied for.

Your first impulse may be to send out a bunch of applications and see which ones get approved, but this is a mistake. Credit card issuers see a load of hard inquiries in a short period of time as a red flag. Not only can this make you look desperate for funds, but data shows that high numbers of inquiries correlate to higher rates of bankruptcy, as noted by myFICO. The last thing you want to do is make yourself look like too big of a risk, so your chances are better if you apply for one credit card at a time. If you get declined, it’s best to wait four to six months before applying for another card.

Note that this advice doesn’t apply to auto loans, mortgages and student loans, according to myFICO. When you apply for these kinds of loans, all credit inquiries you receive within a 45-day period are counted as one inquiry, which lets you shop around for the best interest rate.

4. Include all of your income

When you fill out a credit card application, one of the many pieces of information you’ll need to provide is your annual income. Credit card issuers use your income to verify that you’ll be able to repay any debt you rack up and compare it to the amount of debt you currently have in order to make sure you’re not stretched too thin financially.

It’s easy to assume that income only refers to the wages you earn from your occupation, but according to the law, income actually encompasses a lot more than that. If you’re 21 or older, your reported annual income can include any funds that you reasonably expect you will have access to, such as government benefit distributions, student loans and your spouse or partner’s wages. Once you start reporting the amount of income you’re legally allowed to claim, your shot at credit card approval can go way up.

5. Improve your credit score

Although it may take some time to come to fruition, improving your credit score is often the best way to help your chances at being approved. Getting into a routine of on-time payments is the best way to boost your score in the long run, but improving your credit mix or credit utilization ratio could be a short-term solution. Plus, there may be cases where an error has made its way onto your credit report, so look into disputing any wrongful claims.

After you apply …

Denied?

If at first you aren’t approved for your credit card of choice, you can call the card issuer and ask them to reconsider your application.

Many credit card issuers run reconsideration lines that allow you to speak with a representative who will ask you more detailed questions about your financial situation and then decide whether to uphold your application denial or overturn it and approve you.

Before you call, it’s a good idea to have certain financial figures handy, such as your income, housing payments and tax details, as that information will almost certainly come up during the conversation. You should also expect the representative to ask you why you want the card. Try to avoid responses centered around promotional card features like intro bonuses, because that will give off the impression that you’re just going to use the bonus and then get rid of the card.

Instead, focus on ongoing card features, such as cash back rates and perks, the 0% intro APR offer or any extra payment security advantages the card may offer. If the answer is still no, take a peek at our tips for what to do if your credit card application is rejected.

With a bit of planning and some careful consideration, you can significantly increase your chances of getting your credit card application approved. For more strategies to help you maximize your credit cards, follow our credit cards blog.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.