Make a request for credit card is as easy as entering your information in a online form and clicking on “submit”. But get approved for a credit card? For some, it takes a bit of know-how and planning before applying.

1. Know your credit scores

Credit ratings – you have more than one – is one of the most important factors in a credit card issuer’s decision to approve your application. Banks differ on how they proceed with approvals, but the scores are generally categorized by lenders like this:

Most rewards credit cards require good or excellent credit. So if you are struggling to maintain a good credit history, you may want to delay applying until your credit improves. Or, instead of rewards cards, you might consider secure cards or cards designed for people with bad credit.

2. Access your credit scores

You can pay to get your FICO score on MyFICO.com, but if you already have a credit card account, you may also already have access to free FICO scores on your monthly statement or online account. And Discover, a credit card issuer, offers a free FICO score to everyone, even if you’re not a customer.

Some personal finance websites, including NerdWallet, offer a free credit score from VantageScore. The VantageScores and FICO scores track in a similar fashion, as both weigh roughly the same factors and use the same data from the credit bureaus.

The list is here.

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Your credit scores will increase if you:

  • Keep balances low on existing credit cards.

A good 30% of your credit score is determined by how much you owe. High credit card balances can be particularly damaging. Your credit utilization rate – your balance divided by your credit limit – should be less than 30% on each credit card. For example, if you have a credit limit of $ 10,000, it is recommended that you keep the balance below $ 3,000.

Reduce your credit usage by creating a plan to pay off an existing balance as quickly as possible. And consider paying for your purchases more than once a month to keep your balance lower throughout the month.

4. Don’t apply for the first job you see.

If you have bad credit, you may not be approved for a card with a big signup bonus and lucrative rewards. Each credit card application can temporarily alter your credit report, so consider using an online tool to prequalified.

You can also call the card issuer and inquire about the requirements of a specific card.

You may have an easier time getting approved for a secured credit card, which uses a cash deposit you make when approving. “secured” your line of credit. A part of the best secure cards offer cash rewards, flexible deposit amounts, and the ability to switch to an unsecured card (and get your deposit back).

5. Include all income in the request

Issuers consider your credit scores to be an indicator of creditworthiness, but ratings do not reflect your income. Card issuers use income to calculate your debt to income ratio, which helps determine your ability to make payments. Change your ratio by increasing income or decreasing debt.

If you are earning money outside of your full-time job, include it in your application. As long as you are 21 or over, you can include your household income, including income of your spouse or partner, on your credit card application.

Resist the temptation to overestimate your income. If an issuer finds that you have knowingly provided false information on your request, you could be charged and convicted of credit card fraud.

Being unemployed does not automatically prevent you from getting a credit card.

Have a plan before you call. You have the right to ask the issuer why you were refused, and you can also view your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com to see if there are any flaws in your story. Make a compelling argument as to why you want the card and why you are financially responsible. Be polite. Customer service agents are more likely to respond positively if you have a pleasant demeanor.

Still no luck? Wait about six months between credit card applications can increase your chances of being approved.

The bottom line

This is why it is essential to take stock of your credit situation before applying for your next card and choosing the best card.

Additionally, give accurate information during the application process and be prepared to stand up for yourself in case you are not approved immediately.