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Is there a minimum income requirement to get a credit card?

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Discover whether you earn enough to qualify for a credit card, and compare low income options.

When you apply for a credit card, your income is an important factor that the issuer will use to determine whether you qualify for a credit card. But just how much income must you earn to be approved? And what other factors might be considered? This guide will answer those questions and more. Find out if you’re likely to be approved for a credit card, and then compare your options.

Now let’s answer that question …

Is there a minimum income requirement to get a credit card?

The answer is, not exactly. Before the Recession of 2008, credit card companies would give cards to anyone, even those with no income. But that all changed when the Credit CARD Act of 2009 put new provisions in place to protect consumers. Although the Credit CARD Act does not set minimum income requirements, it does restrict credit card issuers from extending credit to someone who does not have the ability to make the required payments under the terms of the credit card account. But what exactly does that mean?

Simply put, a credit card issuer must take into account your ability to repay the debt. In order to determine someone’s eligibility, the card issuer will weigh several factors, including income. Specifically, issuers will look at your debt-to-income ratio your combined monthly debt payments in comparison to your monthly income. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends keeping your ratio to 43%. Issuers will look at this figure when determining how much you can afford to pay and will then set your credit card limit accordingly. This includes being able to make payments on a fully maxed-out credit card. Other important factors include your credit score and your credit history.

Credit card eligibility requirements help issuers reduce the risk of lending and allow them to offer you products that are appropriate for your financial circumstances. In turn, you can use these requirements to help you choose and apply for credit cards that suit your individual needs.
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What other sources of money could count as income?

Even if you’re between jobs or are currently relying on government assistance, many credit card issuers will look at other sources of income when deciding whether to approve you. In fact, if you’re 21 or over, federal law states that you can list the income of your partner, spouse or other household members on your credit card application, just as long as you have access to it. However, if you’re under 21, you’ll need to rely on your own individual income. This can come from any of the following sources:

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Retirement fund distributions
  • Investment returns
  • Social Ssecurity or pension income
  • Inheritance or trust fund distributions
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Alimony, child support or separate maintenance income, if you will use it to pay your bill
  • Liquid assets insuch as a savings account

Why do eligibility requirements vary?

This relationship between income and credit cards can influence a wide range of credit card features, from the credit limit and interest rate of the card right through to complimentary extras or rewards programs. In general, cards with high eligibility requirements will have more features than low eligibility requirements credit cards, but there are still many different credit cards you can choose from if you don’t earn a lot of money.

Other factors that affect your credit card application

Credit card issuers weigh a range of other factors before approving or denying your request for credit, including:

  • Credit score. The better your credit score, the more likely you will be approved. Credit issuers pull your report from one of the three main credit-reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.
  • Credit history. Issuers like to see that you have a history of good credit.
  • Utilization. This is the balance that you’re currently using on one single credit card compared to that card’s credit limit. A general rule of thumb is to keep your credit card debt to 30% or less of your spending limit.
  • Employment status. While credit card issuers typically prefer people to have full-time employment, you could still be eligible for some cards if you work part-time, are self-employed or if you have a pension or other source of steady income.
  • Income vs expenses. When you apply for a credit card, you will have to provide information about your current income, spending habits and any existing debts to help issuers determine whether you can manage more credit.

Credit card income requirements help issuers assess the risk of lending and give you an idea of what cards are available to you based on your financial situation. Now that you have a better understanding of minimum income requirements, you can compare and apply for a card that fits your circumstances and needs.

Adrienne Fuller

Adrienne Fuller leads the publishing team at finder.com. She has one goal: to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. When she's not helping folks save money, she's hiking with her two Catahoulas around her home in San Diego.

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    HawkJanuary 24, 2018

    I retired early (age 54) and have a 6 figure amount of liquid cash that I am living on and a multi-million dollar 401k that I am not planning on drawing until I am 59 1/2. I work only part-time. I have modest interest and dividends each quarter.
    I have the highest credit score of 850 and have never paid one payment late in 35 years and pay off any balances I have each month in full. To my exasperation, I was denied a credit card. What gives? How can I find a provider that cares about net worth and liquid cash not just income? Thanks.

    • finder Customer Care
      HaroldFebruary 27, 2018Staff

      Hi Hawk,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      Credit card providers’ terms and conditions vary. While there are banks that consider pension, interest income and dividends as valid source income there are some that don’t. Hence, it’s important to check the eligibility criteria and make sure you meet them before applying. To know which providers offer a credit card to pensioners and retirees, you may check our comparison table on this page. Kindly take note of the terms and conditions you have to meet as well as documents to provide in order to be eligible.
      Also, you may want to give it some time before applying for another credit card if that rejected application you mentioned was recent. Our guide here explains why.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Cheers,
      Harold

  2. Default Gravatar
    TaylorNovember 3, 2017

    I just recently did a application for a capitol one credit card and they emailed me saying they need proof of my annual income. My most recent W2 is from when I worked from August of 2016 to December of 2016 but I worked all the way through to August of 2017 before I got laid off. On the application I put my total annual income as $56,000 but from August to December I only made $19,000. So I’m wondering will I not get accepted for the credit card because the annual income is too low?

    • finder Customer Care
      JoanneNovember 4, 2017Staff

      Hi Taylor,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      As discussed on this page, there is no minimum income requirement for credit card applicants in the U.S., but standards have been set by the Credit CARD Act of 2009, passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Although the Credit CARD Act does not set minimum income requirements, it does restrict credit card issuers from extending credit to individuals that do not have the ability to make the required payments under the terms of the credit card account.

      Generally, credit card companies would look at an income that is at least $100 higher than the monthly expenses. In addition to that, a credit card issuer takes into consideration your ability to repay a debt.

      You may compare options found on this page, view the application requirements and once you see a credit card that is at par with your needs you may go ahead and click on more details or go to site.

      Cheers,
      Joanne

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