The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Friday, November 27, 2020

Credit Card Applications: How to Apply for 2020‘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.

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 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 $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good
Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year on purchases (then 1%). Also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • Earn 3% cash back on transit, including U.S. gas stations, taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
  • Access to Global Assist Hotline - 24/7 medical, legal, financial and other select emergency assistance and coordination services
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from the date of account opening
  • $95 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$95
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.

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 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 $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good
Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year on purchases (then 1%). Also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • Earn 3% cash back on transit, including U.S. gas stations, taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
  • Access to Global Assist Hotline - 24/7 medical, legal, financial and other select emergency assistance and coordination services
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from the date of account opening
  • $95 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$95
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.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • 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

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
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • 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
26.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.1/5.0
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
N/A
25.90% - 29.99%
See website for Details
Bad, Poor Credit

+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

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee
  • Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Bank of America® Cash Back Secured Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • A minimum refundable security deposit of $300 (maximum of $4,900) is required to open this account
  • Access your FICO® Score updated monthly for free, within your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking
  • Optional overdraft protection option helps prevent declined purchases, returned checks or other overdrafts when you link your eligible Bank of America® checking account to your credit card. Transfer fees may apply.
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.99% Variable
$0
Bad/Limited
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.1/5.0
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
N/A
25.90% - 29.99%
See website for Details
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.

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