The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Thursday, October 28, 2021

Credit Card Applications: How to Apply for 2021‘s Top Cards

Credit Card Applications

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: June 5, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

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. Let’s take a look at some of our top choices for credit cards available today for a range of credit scores, from the excellent, good, fair, and bad classifications.

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

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor’s Business Daily.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get our best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 24.74% 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

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor’s Business Daily.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get our best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+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.

Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • With the Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card, you earn up to a 3% cash back reward.
  • Make contactless payments through Mobile Wallet
  • Periodic Credit Increase Reviews
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Equifax†
  • † Your credit score will be available in your online account 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required) The free VantageScore 3.0 credit score provided by Equifax is for educational purposes only and may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% Variable
As low as $85
Fair
Aspire® Cash Back Reward Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • With the Aspire® Mastercard® Credit Card, you earn a 3% cash back reward on Gas, Groceries and Utility Payments
  • Earn a 1% cash back reward on all other purchases
  • Up to $1,000 credit limit subject to credit approval
  • Pre-qualify without affecting your credit score
  • No deposits or program fee
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Equifax†
  • † Your credit score will be available in your online account 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required) The free VantageScore 3.0 credit score provided by Equifax is for educational purposes only and may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% Variable
As low as $85
Fair

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

+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 (

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.

First PREMIER® Bank Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Choose which account management options are right for you.
  • Build credit with First PREMIER*
  • Fill out an application and know in 60 seconds if you’re approved!
  • YOU’RE NOT ALONE - As the 12th largest issuer of Mastercard credit cards, First PREMIER Bank understands customer needs and is there for those who may be denied by other issuers.
  • Manageable credit limit, manageable payment, meant to fit your budget
  • *Build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuer Website
See Issuer Website
Fair/Poor
First PREMIER® Bank Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Choose which account management options are right for you.
  • Build credit with First PREMIER*
  • Fill out an application and know in 60 seconds if you’re approved!
  • YOU’RE NOT ALONE - As the 12th largest issuer of Mastercard credit cards, First PREMIER Bank understands customer needs and is there for those who may be denied by other issuers.
  • Manageable credit limit, manageable payment, meant to fit your budget
  • *Build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuer Website
See Issuer Website
Fair/Poor

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual or hidden fees, and you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Building your credit? Using a card like this responsibly could help
  • Put down a refundable $200 security deposit to get a $200 initial credit line
  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

+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.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation from many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.