Getting a credit card can be quite simple. Just compare offers online, and click “Apply Now” once you find one you like. From there, you’ll fill out a straightforward credit card application on the issuer’s secure site. And that’s it. You’ll find out whether you’ve been approved within 14 business days, if not immediately. And your card will arrive in the mail soon thereafter.
But a lot more strategy can go into the process of getting a credit card, too. In particular, a great deal depends on your credit history and what you plan to use your card for. Those factors will dictate which credit cards you can get approved for as well as what features you should seek out.
Here’s how to get a credit card:
|If You’re…||Get a…||Popular Card|
|New to Credit||Starter credit card||Capital One Platinum Credit Card|
|Rebuilding Bad Credit||Secured credit card||Discover it® Secured Credit Card|
|In College||Student credit card||Journey Student Rewards from Capital One|
|Making Everyday Purchases||Rewards credit card||Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer|
|Already in Credit Card Debt||Balance transfer credit card||Wells Fargo Platinum card|
|Going to Carry a Balance||0% intro rate credit card||Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever|
|A Business Owner||Business rewards card (for everyday spending)||Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business|
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the specific steps anyone can take to identify the right credit card for their needs. We’ll also explore how to get a credit card with no credit and bad credit in greater detail, given the unique important of finding the right plastic in those situations. Finally, we’ll answer some of the most common questions people have about the process of getting a credit card.
4 Steps for Getting a Credit Card
- Check Your Credit Score
Credit cards have minimum credit requirements, so you can’t pick a card if you don’t know your score. Even if you’re applying for your first credit card account, you could have some credit history from being an authorized user in the past.
- Choose Between Rewards & Financing
All else being equal, a card with no annual fee obviously is better than a credit card with a fee. But how do you balance interest rates and rewards? It all depends on whether you plan to pay your bill in full every month. If you do, focus on rewards because rates won’t matter.
- Shop Around
Comparison shopping is the best way to find the best deal. After all, you’ll have no idea how a given credit card compares to other available offers if it’s the only one you consider.
- Apply for One Card at a Time
Casting a wide net by submitting numerous applications at once won’t ensure that you catch at least one credit card. Rather, it will hurt both your credit and your chances of approval. So if you don’t get approved the first time around, set your sights a bit lower. Even consider placing a deposit on a secured card.
Once you open your credit card account, the real work begins. Making purchases with a credit card is easy. We all know that. But paying your bills on time and keeping your credit utilization low, for example, are harder to pull off. Both are critical to credit improvement, though. So you’ll need to learn fast.
How to Get a Credit Card with No Credit History
Getting your first credit card is a rite of passage. But aside from the fact that you’ve never done it before, there’s nothing special about the process. In other words, getting a credit card with no credit is no different than doing so with excellent credit. You still need to comparison shop, read reviews and figure out which features are at the top of your list. And there’s still no guarantee that you’ll be approved once you submit your application.
Sure, you won’t have as many credit card offers available to you as someone with good or excellent credit. And the cards that you can get won’t be as flashy. But you will be able to get a credit card, despite having no prior credit experience. And that’s all that matters as far as credit building is concerned.
Simply having an open credit card account will help you establish credit history. So the biggest things to look for in an offer are high odds of approval and a low annual fee.
How to Get a Credit Card with Bad Credit
Bad credit limits your options. But it is possible to get a credit card with bad credit. And that’s good news because credit cards are the best tools we have for rebuilding damaged credit. As long as you have an open credit card account that is in good standing, positive information will be added to your credit reports each month. And that positive information will gradually bury the negative info that damaged your credit in the first place.
If credit improvement is your top priority, you definitely want a secured credit card. Secured cards report to the credit bureaus just like “normal” cards. And they charge much lower fees than unsecured credit cards for bad credit. The one thing that people often object to is the fact that you have to place a refundable security deposit to get a secured card. But you’ll get that back when you close your account, so it’s preferable to paying non-refundable fees.
If you need a small emergency loan, you’ll have to settle for an unsecured credit card for bad credit. This will give you $100 to $200 in spending power, above what you can afford in cash.
9 FAQs About How to Get a Credit Card
Getting a credit card can be far from straightforward, in many ways. So it makes sense that people have a lot of questions about the process, from basic matters of eligibility to how to pay the bills after approval. You can find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions below.
- How do you apply for a credit card?As far as the logistics of applying for a credit card are concerned, we have three primary options at our disposal: 1) online applications; 2) paper applications; and 3) applying over the phone.Depending on how a given credit card is advertised (e.g. online or through a direct mail offer), you many have all three application options at your disposal or only one or two of them. For example, there are certain “online-only” credit card offers. Read More
- What do you need to sign up for a credit card?All you really need to get a credit card are a birth date that’s at least 18 years ago, enough income or assets to afford a card’s monthly minimum payments, a valid identity and a U.S. mailing address. What you don’t need, however, is any prior experience. You can get credit without any prior credit history, or even with bad credit history. You just need to pick the right card and meet the aforementioned eligibility requirements.Of course, each individual credit card has its own approval criteria. So make sure to read a card’s terms and conditions, particularly as they relate to eligibility, before you submit an application.
- What do you need to know before you get a credit card?Like any powerful tool, credit cards can be incredibly beneficial if used correctly but dangerously adverse when handled with the wrong mindset. Recognizing both sides of this double-edged sword will help you better navigate the credit space by enabling you to make the most of the positive features while avoiding the majority of the drawbacks. Read More
- How do you choose a credit card?There’s a big difference between getting a credit card and getting the right credit card. And it all depends on diagnosing your biggest needs. This will help you decide between starter credit cards and credit cards for people with excellent credit, for example. And it will tell you whether to focus on rewards, 0% rates or $0 annual fees.But most people asking this question have limited or bad credit. So WalletHub’s editors compared 1,000+ offers to find the best options for folks in those groups. And you can find their recommendations below.
Here are the best credit cards to get:
- Best for Students – Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
- Best for No Credit – Capital One Platinum Credit Card
- Best for Bad Credit – Discover it® Secured Credit Card
For a more personalized recommendation, sign up for a free WalletHub account. We’ll tell you what cards offer the highest approval odds based on your latest credit score. Only WalletHub offers free credit scores that are updated daily.
- How do I get a credit card at 18?Many people mistakenly believe that regulations – the Credit CARD Act of 2009, in particular – prevent folks who are under the age of 21 from getting their own credit cards, but that’s certainly not the case.You can get your own credit card account as soon as you turn 18 and a credit card with your name on it even earlier than that, if you’re an authorized user on a parent’s account. Read More
- Can applying for credit cards hurt credit?Whenever you apply for a new credit line or loan, your credit score will inevitably take a small hit from the issuer’s hard inquiry. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact. Read More
- How much does a credit card denial hurt your credit score?Yes, a credit card application that an issuer turns down will affect your credit score. However, the impact will be no different than what would result if your application gets approved, with the sole exception being that your credit won’t be further affected by a new trade line also appearing on your major credit reports. Read More
- How does a credit card affect your credit score?Credit cards are regarded as the most cost-efficient credit building tools available to consumers because they report account information to Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion on a monthly basis, regardless of whether you actually use them or not.Simply having an open credit card account that is in good standing leads to a monthly infusion of positive information into your major credit reports, as it indicates that you have credit available and that you’re being responsible with it. The benefits won’t be as pronounced as they would be if you were routinely using your credit cards to make purchases and then paying them off by your due date, but simply having a credit card will nevertheless help you build credit. Read More
- How long does it take to get a credit card?It generally takes 7-10 business days to get a new credit card after being approved for an account. That means you’ll have plastic in your hands 14 – 24 business days after submitting an application, if everything goes smoothly. If you need a replacement card because your original plastic was lost, stolen or damaged, it will take 3 – 7 business days, depending on the issuer. Read More