Credit Card Applications: How to Apply for 2019‘s Top Cards

Credit Card Applications: How to Apply for 2019‘s Top Cards

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: September 6, 2019
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines and are updated regularly.

Before the rise of the internet, submitting credit card applications was a laborious process. Your choices were often limited to the mail or the bank, which essentially came down to choosing between filling out a long, tedious form — or enduring a long, tedious interview.

While modern credit card applicants can still choose to honor their ancestors by using the mail-in form — or practice the art of small talk with their local teller — today’s credit seeker has an even better option: the online application. Online credit card applications are usually the fastest way to apply — often in 13 lines or less — and typically resulting in an answer in just 60 seconds.

The application will request standard personal information, such as your name and address, as well as information about your income and employment status. You’ll also need to agree to allow the credit card issuer to run your credit, the result of which will determine whether your credit card application is accepted, and, if so, the terms you are offered by the issuer.

Excellent Credit | Good Credit | Fair Credit | Bad Credit

Best Cards for Excellent Credit (750+ FICO Score)

The crème de la crème of the credit card applicant pool, those with excellent credit have high credit scores and pristine credit reports. They’ve shown a long, steady history of positive financial behavior, including having a healthy mix of credit and maintaining all of their accounts in good standing.

To reward their credit diligence, excellent credit applicants are almost guaranteed acceptance for most credit cards (provided they meet income requirements). Additionally, these cardholders will be offered the lowest interest rates and fees, as well as many of the best rewards and signup bonuses.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • New Offer! Double Cash Back: Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.99% - 25.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.99% - 25.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More Cards for Excellent Credit

The caveat to the near-guaranteed acceptance will often be meeting an individual issuer’s requirements for application frequency. For example, Chase is infamous for rigorously upholding its “5/24 Rule,” which stipulates that applicants cannot have applied for more than five new lines of credit in the last 24 months, regardless of their credit score.

Best Cards for Good Credit (700+ FICO Score)

Before you reach excellent credit status, you’ll spend some time in the good credit category. Those with good credit scores have demonstrated many of the same healthy credit behaviors as their excellent-credit counterparts, such as paying their bills on time and as agreed, but may not have the same diversity of credit types or as extensive a credit history.

Thanks to their healthy histories, good credit applicants are likely to be approved for many prime credit cards, including great travel and cash back cards. While not as low as the rates offered to excellent credit consumers, those with good credit can still expect low interest rates and fees.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • New Offer! Double Cash Back: Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.99% - 25.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 25.24% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

+See More Cards for Good Credit

One of the main differences between applying for a credit card with good credit instead of excellent credit will likely be your approved credit limit. While most people believe the credit limit is set by their income alone, income is only one of the factors. As with the general approval for a credit card, the limit for which you are approved will be most heavily influenced by your credit score.

Best Cards for Fair Credit (650+ FICO Score)

Being in the “fair” credit category shows you’ve made some of the right moves — but still have room to grow. This may mean you’re working on building your credit for the first time, or could indicate you have had a few hiccups with your credit, such as making several late payments, and need to rebuild.

Fair-credit consumers represent more of a credit risk to issuers and, thus, will not receive the same attractive rates as those with good or excellent credit. They also won’t qualify for the same rewards deals and signup offers, though consumers with fair credit can still find solid rewards card and great everyday cards.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.96% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.96% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability
  • Qualified applicants will receive a card with a competitive APR and no annual fee along with 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, terms apply
  • View updates to your Experian credit score with free online access, terms apply
  • Make paying your bill easier with the ability to choose your payment due date, terms apply
  • Access your account on-the-go with the Credit One Bank mobile app
  • Never miss an account update with customizable text and email alerts
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
20.24%-26.24% Variable
$0 - $99
Fair

+See More Cards for Fair Credit

With fair credit, credit card options will be more limited than for those with better credit. To test the waters before applying for a credit card well outside your qualification range, you should check for pre-qualification or pre-approval offers.

Screenshot of Citi Pre-Approval Form

Pre-qualifying for a credit card can be a good way to test the waters without impacting your credit score.

Unlike an official credit card application, the applications for pre-qualified credit card offers use a soft credit pull, rather than a hard pull, so it won’t affect your credit. If you receive a pre-qualification credit card offer, it can indicate you may be approved for that credit card were you to apply.

Best Cards for Bad Credit (<650 FICO Score)

Consumers with bad credit have likely experienced some bumps in the credit road, perhaps including several missed payments, defaulted loans, or even bankruptcy, and are at the bottom of the credit totem pole. Perhaps your financial position has changed or you’re simply ready to put your bad credit days behind you. The road ahead may be challenging, but have to start somewhere. Because of the poor credit behaviors demonstrated by those with bad credit, many issuers are wary of providing credit, meaning you may need to focus on issuers who specifically deal with subprime borrowers.

Another option for bad credit consumers struggling to obtain an unsecured credit card is to apply for a secured credit card. Requiring a cash deposit to open, secured credit cards are easier to get than unsecured cards but have many of the same features. For example, a secured card with a MasterCard logo can be used to make purchases anywhere MasterCard is accepted.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Fingerhut Credit Account Review

at Fingerhut'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands
  • Take advantage of low monthly payments if you apply and are accepted for a Fingerhut Credit Account issued by WebBank, who determines eligibility and qualifications for the terms of credit
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuers Website
$0
Poor Credit
Milestone® Mastercard® - Less Than Perfect Credit Considered Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.9/5.0
  • Prequalify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Protection from fraud if your card is stolen
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
  • *Dependent on credit worthiness
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.9%
$35 - $99
Bad, Poor Credit

+See More Cards for Bad Credit

The credit card issuers who specialize in applicants with poor credit make up for the higher risk of their customers by charging cardholders fairly high interest rates, and many also charge additional fees. Compare your options before applying for a subprime card to ensure you have the best deal.

Chart Showing Credit Score Considerations

Of course, the way to qualify for the best credit cards is to improve your credit score. Paying your debts as agreed, establishing a healthy mix of credit types, and maintaining low balances on your credit cards can all contribute to rebuilding your credit.

Your Credit Future is an Application Away

Whether you like to put pen to paper, chat it up in person, or fly through an online application, applying for a new credit card can be an important step to building or maintaining your credit. The way you use — and the way you pay — your new credit card will influence your overall credit and help determine your future creditworthiness, so be sure to practice responsible credit behaviors.