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How to get a credit card

Find a card that fits your financial needs.

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Getting your first credit card is a big step toward financial freedom. Among the many benefits, a card lets you earn rewards and build credit with responsible card use. Strong credit can help you get better credit cards and loan terms in the future.

How to get a credit card

There are four simple steps you should follow before you apply for a credit card:

  1. Meet the eligibility criteria.
    In most cases, you need to be at least 18 years old and be a US citizen or a US resident to apply for the card. If you’re younger than 18, start building credit as an authorized user to your parents’ credit cards.
  2. Have income.
    Show a steady income to the card provider so they know you can pay off your balance. This includes all kinds of income, such as a paycheck, retirement fund, spouse or partner income and scholarships and grants. Note that it’s possible to get a credit card without a job.
  3. Review your credit score.
    The best credit cards require either a good credit score of 670 or higher. But there are several cards that let you apply with no credit history or with a poor credit score.
  4. Do some research.
    There are a lot of credit cards out there. Make sure you compare your options to find one that fits your financial situation.

How to get a credit card that’s right for you

A credit card provider will make a hard pull on your credit when you apply, temporarily lowering your credit score. That means it’s best to apply for cards that will give you the highest chance of approval.

  • How to get a credit card for no credit.
    With no credit history, you can only apply for entry-level cards with no rewards and no 0% intro APR period. Your options usually include secured or unsecured cards for building credit. But if you’re a student, you get access to better cards for building credit.
  • How to get a credit card for bad credit.
    Same as with the cards for no credit, you’ll find secured and unsecured cards for bad credit. Typically, secured cards have a lower annual fee and interest rates, which makes them arguably a cheaper option. But you’ll have to put up a deposit to act as your credit line.
  • How to get a credit card for fair credit.
    With fair credit, you have access to slightly better credit cards where you can earn rewards. However, these cards often come with an annual fee, albeit a small one at around $30.
  • How to get a credit card for good credit.
    Good credit opens up one of the best credit card options. As soon as you build your credit score, feel free to apply for a solid cashback card, a card with a generous welcome offer or a card with a long 0% intro APR period on balance transfers and purchases. And in some cases, one credit card can have all these perks.

Our pick for offers based on your credit score

CardMatch™ from creditcards.com

  • Find card offers you are more likely to qualify for without impacting your credit score.
  • Save time by comparing matched offers from multiple partner banks.
  • You may be matched to special offers based on your credit profile.
  • See your matched offers in less than 60 seconds.
  • Get matched to the card feature that's right for you. Find cards with low interest, cash back, balance transfers, and travel rewards.
  • Users may not be matched with all offers or banks. Matches are based on a user's credit profile. See the CardMatch terms and conditions for more details.
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See Rates & Fees

Compare credit cards

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0
Get 3% cash back on groceries on up to $6,000 annually (then 1%) with no annual fee. This is a simple and effective rewards card. Rates & fees
Chase Freedom Flex℠
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
$0
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
15.99% to 22.99% variable
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $$1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
N/A
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0
An impressive 18 months intro APR on balance transfers and purchases, as well as no annual fee make this one of the top 0% APR cards available.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Perfect for families: Get up to 6% on everyday purchases and a welcome offer worth $300. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Rates & fees
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How to apply for a credit card

Once you figure out your credit score and which card you want, here’s how to apply for a credit card:

  1. Prequalify to see your chances of approval without taking a hit on your credit.
  2. Prepare the required information, including your Social Security number and annual income.
  3. Visit the card’s website and click Apply now.
  4. Fill out the application form.
  5. Review the form and submit.

Bottom line

Getting a credit card is easy as long as you know your credit score and you meet the eligibility requirements. As soon as you are approved for a card, make sure to pay your balance before the due date, so you could easily build your credit and open the door toward better credit card options.

But before you apply, do your research to find the best credit card for your needs.

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