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How to Get a Credit Card

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Quick Answer

Getting a credit card can be difficult because banks and other financial institutions have to assess a user's creditworthiness. Learn how to get a credit card successfully with the following tips.

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Full Answer

Applying for a credit card is as simple as filling out an online form and clicking the "submit" button. Getting approved for a credit card, however, is not easy, especially if a user is younger than 21 years old or doesn't have a stable source of income. Thus, before applying, users should not only know how to get a credit card but also know how to increase their chances of getting approved for one.

Basic Requirements
Users must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card and need to be able to prove they have income before applying. Otherwise, a user may need a co-signer, who is a person who guarantees that the user's credit card balance will be paid off in case the user defaults. It's not necessary to earn income from a full-time job to get a credit card, but banks and other financial institutions want to make sure that users can make timely payments.

Improve a Credit Score
Having a high credit score helps increase one's chances of getting approved for a credit card that comes with a number of benefits, including insurance, a rewards program and the ability to add other cardholders. It may also help a user get a lower interest rate when he or she borrows, which means that the user pays less over time. While credit scores vary depending on the bank a user is working with, scores are usually categorized by lending institutions as follows:

  • 300-629: Bad credit
  • 630-689: Average credit
  • 690-719: Good credit
  • 720 and above: Excellent credit

Pay Off Debt
About 30 percent of a credit score is determined by the amount of debt a person has, according to Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). Hence, if a person's credit card balance is high, his or her credit score will suffer. The credit utilization ratio, which is the outstanding balance divided by a person's credit limit, should not go over 30 percent on each credit card. Therefore, if a user has a credit limit of about $5,000, for instance, he or she should keep his or her balance below $1,500 at all times. To decrease credit utilization, create a plan to pay off all remaining balances as quickly as possible. It also helps if users pay off their purchases at least twice a month to keep their balances lower during the month.

Include All Sources of Income in an Application
While a credit score helps to determine a user's overall creditworthiness, it doesn't tell financial institutions about the user's income. Banks have to know the amount of income to compute a debt-to-income ratio. This ratio determines a user's capacity to make timely payments. Users can only lower their debt-to-income ratios either by increasing their income or decreasing their debt.

If a user makes money from multiple jobs, he or she should make sure to indicate it on his or her application to show an accurate debt-to-income ratio. However, avoid overstating income. If the bank a user is working with finds that the information provided regarding income is inaccurate, it could file a lawsuit against a user for credit card fraud.

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