I was in college when I first realized the importance of establishing a credit history, and I began to explore how to apply for a credit card online. At the time, there weren’t as many guides and resources around like there are today. So I took to my laptop to peruse numerous applications and read the fine print on card offerings.
I selected a card that seemed suitable for someone with a limited credit history and waited. It wasn’t until I finally saw my name printed along the bottom of my first credit card that I realized the process of applying wasn’t as difficult as I once believed. Since that day, I’ve applied and been approved for over 50 credit cards.
Using what I’ve learned from my personal experiences, this guide will walk you through the necessary steps for getting a new credit card in your wallet as quickly and easily as possible. Because your credit rating ultimately determines which cards you’ll be approved for, I’ve also rounded up the best credit cards to apply for based on your current credit score. So, let’s dive in as we explore how to apply for credit cards online and take a look at some top picks for excellent credit, good credit, fair credit, bad credit, and even no credit.
4 Steps to Apply for a Credit Card Online
While there are a few different ways to apply for a credit card, the credit card companies have made it extremely easy to apply online. Depending on your credit score, you may find that you’ll receive a response sooner when you apply for a credit card online than through other methods such as regular mail or over the phone.
1. Check Your Credit Score
Your FICO credit score provides the credit card companies with a sense of your creditworthiness because it includes several factors related to credit use:
- Payment History makes up 35% of your FICO score
- Amounts Owed accounts for 30%
- Length of Credit History accounts for 15%
- Credit Mix & New Credit both contribute 10% each to your score
FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and your approval for certain cards depends on where your score falls. You’ll want to look into and apply for cards you feel confident you’ll be approved for, and there are many great credit card options for no credit, bad credit (<619), fair credit (620-679), good credit (680-719), and excellent credit (720+).
You can check your score through FICO directly or through one of the credit bureaus, like TransUnion.
2. Gather the Information You’ll Need to Apply
Before you begin to apply for a credit card, you’ll want to make sure you have the information necessary to complete the online application. You’ll be asked for some basic information including your name, contact details, and current address, as well as specific financial data such as your income. Further, you’ll need to supply security information including your Social Security number, date of birth, and mother’s maiden name.
If you have a thin credit file, meaning you have little to no credit history, then you may be asked for more information or proof of the information you provided, such as a copy of a government-issued ID or a previous address.
It’s important to note that the terms “pre-qualified” and “pre-approved” are generally interchangeable and result in a soft credit inquiry, which does not affect your credit score. However, a pre-approval does not guarantee an actual approval for the card of your choice. With that said, if you’ve been prescreened for a card, you are more likely to be approved. In that instance, the issuer looks at available information to make a good estimate of your creditworthiness.
3. Submit Your Application
When you submit your credit card application online, by mail, or over the phone, you’re giving the issuer permission to do a hard pull on your credit, which has the potential to negatively affect your credit score, especially if you’re not approved.
Submitting your application online tends to be the most common and preferred method because you can easily compare multiple offers across issuers to ensure you get the best available rewards and rates. You can use our reviews as a shortcut and click the “Apply Now” button to go to each card’s official application:
- 2016’s Best Overall Cards
- Air Miles
- Cash Back
- 0% Intro APR
- Low Ongoing APR
- For Limited / No Credit
- For Bad Credit
Once you click “Submit,” your application will be sent to the issuer for approval.
4. Wait (Up to 2 Weeks) for a Decision on Your Credit Card Application
Many people with good to excellent credit will find they’re approved immediately after they submit their application online. If you apply by mail or phone, regardless of credit score, you may find it takes a little longer to hear back from the issuer. Applicants with fair to bad credit could end up waiting nearly two weeks for a decision from the credit card company.
If you’re not approved, you should wait about six months before applying again to give yourself time to rebuild your credit. Plus, requesting more credit too quickly could raise an avoidable red flag. Hard inquiries, such as credit card applications, remain on your credit report for two years.
However, if you believe you should have been approved or don’t understand why you were denied, you can reach out to the issuer directly for reconsideration. Each issuer will provide its own reconsideration phone number, and you’ll need to be prepared to answer additional questions as to why they should reconsider you. Also, be sure to call within 30 days or you may have to reapply, resulting in another hard inquiry.
5 Best Credit Cards to Apply for Online
It’s important to only apply for cards you think you can qualify for or risk not being approved, which can knock your score down a few points. By starting the search for you next credit card within your credit qualifications, you can feel more confident submitting your application.
Below are some of the best cards currently available, broken down by the different credit score ranges.
Apply for a Credit Card with “Excellent Credit” (720+)
If you have excellent credit, then you’ve likely paid your bill on time without overextending your credit allowance, and if you continue those practices, a new card can be a responsible way to earn additional rewards. Check out this top pick for applicants with excellent credit:
Discover it® Cash Back
This card is currently not available.
Excellent Credit Rating
Apply for a Credit Card with “Good Credit” (680 – 719)
While factors such as your credit utilization ratio and payment history can keep you out of the excellent credit range, you can still qualify for cards with excellent benefits, including cash back, rewards points, and no annual fee. Below is a popular credit card for those with good credit:
at the issuer'ssecure website
GOOD CREDIT RATING
- 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 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
- Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% 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%.
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
Apply for a Credit Card with “Fair Credit” (620 – 679)
Sending in a late payment, or missing one altogether, may account for lower scores in the fair range. However, there are cards that, when used responsibly, can help you build your credit score. This top card for fair credit offers benefits attractive to any cardholder, regardless of credit score:
FAIR CREDIT RATING
- 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
Average, Fair, Limited
Apply for a Credit Card with “Bad Credit” (<619)
Bad credit can happen to anyone after a few missed payments or biting off more debt than you can chew, but responsible use of a credit card can actually help to rebuild your credit. There are many credit cards that are more likely to approve applicants with bad credit, and out of the best credit cards for people with bad credit, this is a favorite:
at Credit One'ssecure website
BAD CREDIT RATING
- See if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score
- Track your progress with free online access to your Experian credit score, terms apply
- Looking to rebuild credit? We report to the major credit bureaus monthly
- Accounts are automatically reviewed for credit line increase opportunities
- Make paying your bill easier with the ability to choose your payment due date, terms apply
- Stay in-the-know with customizable account alerts via email and text
17.99% to 23.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Apply for a Credit Card with “No Credit” (0 Credit Score)
If you’ve never opened a line of credit, it’s hard for issuers to judge whether you’ll be a good credit risk or not. However, you can still be approved for a credit card with no credit history — you may just have to provide additional details about yourself, such as proof of income. Below is one of my favorite cards for applicants with no credit:
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
- 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
Average, Fair, Limited
Time to Make Room in Your Wallet
It’s easier than ever to research and apply for a credit card online. The most important part of applying for a new credit card is figuring out what you can effectively qualify for based on your credit score, otherwise, you may end up with a hard inquiry on your report with no card to show for it. Use this guide to help you stay organized and on track as you prepare to apply for a credit card. By following the simple steps outlined above, you can soon see your name along the bottom of a new card, too.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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About the Author
Lauren Keys has over nine years of writing and editing experience for media outlets including The New York Times, Entrepreneur.com, Gainesville Magazine, and numerous other publications. Lauren strives to inform readers of how they can make the most of their budgets by sharing personal finance tips and highlighting the brands and products that can help them achieve their financial goals.