How to Get a Credit Card

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Applying for a credit card online is a strong option, since you can take your time to research the best cards for you.

You can apply for a credit card online, in person, through the mail, or over the phone. 
Checking your credit before applying, gives you a sense of the interest rates you can expect, as well as which cards you can get.
If your credit score isn’t good enough for the card you want, consider improving your credit before applying.
Read Insider’s guide to the best starter credit cards.

So you’re ready to join the ranks of the 191 million Americans with credit cards, and just one question remains — how do you apply for a credit card?

The good news is that the process is simple, and your options are many as long as you have a good credit score. But even if you’re a student with a limited credit history or rebuilding your credit, there’s a credit card for you.

Here’s everything you need to know to apply for a credit card for the first time.

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

How to Apply for a Credit Card 

You can apply for your first credit card in person, by mail, on the phone, or online, and if your credit is good, you’ll have your pick of various cards and credit card companies.

We’re going to walk you through the online application method, however, not only because it’s the easiest but because online credit card research will serve you no matter how you end up applying. After all, the offers that creditors send you aren’t necessarily the best credit cards. They’re just the ones the credit card companies are most interested in selling.

1. Check your credit score

Your credit score dictates the credit cards you can qualify for, the interest rates you’ll be charged, and any rewards you’d receive. As such, checking your credit score is incredibly important.

The entire range of credit scores, from 300-850, are separated into risk categories: poor, fair, good, very good, and excellent. Most credit cards require good credit or better (a FICO score of 670 or above). If your score doesn’t meet this threshold, you can either work to improve your credit or look into secured credit cards, which are great for beginners as many of them accept people with bad or no credit. Here’s our guide to the best credit cards for bad credit.

Note: You’ll also want to take a look at your credit report and scan for recent credit inquiries you may have triggered in the past year. Applying for multiple lines of credit in a short period can significantly lower your credit score.

2. Compare credit card offers

Do your research to find out which card is best for you, paying special attention to annual fees and interest rates. We recommend starting with this list of the best credit cards available now. Make sure to pay attention to ongoing rewards as well as any sign-up bonuses offered to new cardholders. 

You can read Insider’s credit card reviews for a closer look at the pros and cons of each card.

Or, if nothing in particular catches your eye, it’s always a good idea to ask your friends about cards they like, as both parties tend to get rewarded when you convince someone new to apply. Just make sure to use the provided code so you get to claim your referral bonus.

3. Fill out an online application

Once you’ve decided, look for an “Apply Now” button on the site, and it should take you directly to an application. Questions may differ slightly but be prepared to provide a combination of biographical and financial info, including your name, address, Social Security number, annual income, monthly expenses, and the balance in your existing bank account(s).

4. Submit your application

Once you’ve submitted your application, it’s time to sit back and wait for a decision. Some issuers are faster than others — you may even get approved immediately — but typically you should hear back one way or another within 10 to 14 business days.

5. Receive your card

If you’re approved, you should receive your new credit card within another 10 to 14 business days, although it’s often possible to expedite delivery for certain extenuating circumstances. From there, you’ll need to activate your card, and then you’re free to start making purchases.

Use your credit card responsibly

Moving from a debit card to a credit card is a crucial transition, as sudden access to all those borrowed funds can produce a temptation to overspend. But experts recommend treating your credit card more like a debit card — utilize it for big purchases, yes, but do your absolute best to pay your balance in full every month, or you could end up paying a fortune in interest.

The average American household carries $8,398 in credit card debt. That may not sound like a lot, but with the average credit card interest rate hovering around 20%, that number generates $1,679 in interest every year. It’s a lot of incentive to stay on top of your payments, stick to your budget, and live within your means, tempting as that skyrocketing credit limit might be.

How to Get a Credit Card Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if my credit card application gets rejected?

If your credit card application gets rejected, you’ll receive an adverse action letter from the credit card company. This document explains the reason they rejected your application. You’ll be able to access a free credit report from the credit bureau that supplied the report your creditor used to consider your application. 

How do I get credit for the first time?

If you’re just starting on your credit journey, you can look into credit builder loans or a secured credit card to start your credit history. You can also see if a close friend or family member would be willing to add you onto their credit card as an authorized user, which will help you build credit.

Who can apply for a credit card?

As long as you’re over 18, with a credit history, a source of income, and a Social Security number, you should be able to apply for a credit card. And even those without extensive credit histories can apply for a starter credit card or a secured credit card to begin building up the necessary foundation.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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