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10 top credit card application tips

Follow these steps to increase your chances of approval when you apply for a credit card.

While applying for a new credit card only takes a few minutes online, it does come with certain risks. After you apply for a card, the credit card issuer looks at your income, credit history and the documents you provide in your application to determine whether you’re a high- or low-risk applicant. Essentially, they’re looking for signs that you have the ability to repay the money you borrow.

While making sure you meet the eligibility requirements is crucial, there are some other ways to improve your chances of approval when applying for a new credit card. Use this guide’s 10 tips to increase your chances of receiving approval for a credit card, including what to do before applying and submitting your application, plus mistakes to avoid when requesting a new credit card.

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What you do before you apply for a credit card is more important than the act of filling out the application. While it may take only 10 minutes to complete an online form, getting your affairs in order so that you’re ready for the bank’s assessment of your application takes a bit more time and preparation.

Tip #1. Take your time

It’s never a good idea to rush into things, and it is your right as a consumer to assess the bank before it assesses you. Don’t jump at the first credit card deal you see because that probably won’t be the right one for you. Instead, spend some time comparing your credit card options and doing your research, so you can find a card that suits your financial needs.

Tip #2. Know your needs

There are many types of credit cards that suit different types of cardholders. Before you begin your search, think about what you want, need and can afford with your next credit card. For example, if you’re studying and this the first credit card you’re applying for, you might want to apply for a low-income credit card to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. On the other hand, if you also want to keep your interest costs down, you might decide to apply for a low rate credit card.

Even if you already use a credit card, it’s worth taking time to reconsider your goals. For example, if you’re a regular spender and frequently repay your balance, you could be rewarded for your spending with an Airpoints credit card. If you have some big-ticket items in mind but want to keep your interest costs low, a low purchase rate credit card could come in handy. Otherwise, if you’re struggling to repay existing debt, a balance transfer credit card with a 0% promotional offer could help you get your finances under control. Whatever the case, being specific about the type of card you want helps you find one that fits your circumstances.

Tip #3: Compare your options

Once you decide what type of card you want, it’s time to begin comparing your options.

What do I need to compare?

  • Interest rates on purchases, cash advances and balance transfer
  • Annual fees
  • Interest-free periods
  • Airpoints programme including earn rate and redeem points
  • Complimentary insurances including travel insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty cover
  • Additional cardholders and whether they come with an additional fee
  • Extra benefits such as concierge services and airline lounge pass that help you offset the cost of the card

Comparing your credit card options helps you narrow down your search and ensures that you’re selecting your next card based on an informed decision.

Tip #4: Check the eligibility requirements

You need to meet a set of eligibility requirements to receive approval for any credit card you apply for. Confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria before submitting your application, as rejected credit card applications can harm your credit score. In New Zealand, the eligibility requirements typically include:

Credit card eligibility requirements

  • Age. Cardholders must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Minimum income. You need sufficient income to comfortably repay the credit limit on your chosen card.
  • Residential status. Credit card issuers might require you to be a permanent New Zealand resident for some cards.
  • Good credit history. You need a reasonable credit history to receive approval.

There are specific eligibility requirements for every credit card, so make sure you know what these are and are confident you have met them before applying.

Tip #5: Check and improve your credit rating

Banks typically use a credit rating system when assessing your eligibility for the card and card limit in question. Based on your credit history, repayment habits and current credit lines, the lender determines how much you can safely borrow. This information is available to lenders whenever you apply for any form of credit.

Your credit report is also available to you at any time. If you request a free copy of your credit history before you apply for a credit card, you’ll be able to correct any possible errors on it and know exactly what the bank will see when they assess your application. If your credit report is less than ideal, it may be wise to delay your credit card application and spend some time improving your credit score to increase your chances of future card approval.

Tip #6: Lower your debt utilisation ratio

If you already have a credit card balance, it’s wise to pay this off before submitting a new credit card application. This is because having a high debt utilisation ratio is a poor indicator of credit-worthiness and reduces the likelihood of a successful application. To calculate your ratio, you can divide the total current balances on your cards by their total limits.

How to lower your utilisation ratio

For example, if the limits on your three cards are $5,000 each, and you have $4,000 balance on each of them, your ratio is $12,000/$15,000 x 100 = 80%. A healthy ratio might be around 30% or less. If you’re struggling to repay your debts because of high-interest rates, consider consolidating your debt with a 0% balance transfer credit card.

Tip #7: Bank with your credit card provider-to-be

Opening a savings account or debit account with the bank you’re applying with could help with the application process. Because you are an existing customer it significantly speeds up your application, which means the bank has already verified that you are a legitimate customer before applying for a credit card.

Secondly, if you have a transaction or savings account with the bank, and your salary is deposited monthly, it proves that you have a paying job and a regular income stream. If you apply online and do it via internet banking, your application is even faster because your details could be pre-populated on the forms. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements, being an existing customer can sometimes mean you receive approval for a credit card more quickly than other applicants, and without the hassle of providing further documentation.

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Once you’ve done some research, found a credit card you like and checked that you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for your chosen credit card. When you fill out your application, make sure you keep the following tips in mind:

Tip #8: Check your details

You’ll be asked to provide a lot of information during your credit card application. This might include addresses, contact numbers, referee details, employment, salary, outstanding debts and monthly expenses (to name a few). While it might seem like a lot of information, it’s important to fill it out correctly and read over it before applying. Mistakes on your application could slow down the process or result in a declined application. For example, if you don’t include details of an outstanding balance and the bank later finds it on your credit file, they could think you’re trying to hide the debt from them and decline your application.

Tip #9: Organise the required documentsccf-application-tips-250x250

As well as eligibility requirements, you are required to provide several documents with your credit card application. Supporting documents you are typically asked for include your driver’s licence, proof of residential status and recent payslips.

  • Personal details. This includes your full name, birth date, contact information, relationship status and residency.
  • Identification. You need to provide your driver’s licence number or another form of ID such as your passport.
  • Employment and income. This includes your current role, pre-tax salary and your employer’s contact information (or accountant’s details if you’re self-employed). You may also need to share details of previous jobs. If you receive payments from Work and Income, a pension or dividends from investments, include these details as well.
  • Finances. Provide details of any savings or other assets, such as property, plus existing debt such as a mortgage, personal loan or other credit cards. You’ll also be asked to list your regular expenses, such as bills, mortgage payments, groceries and other essentials. As well as your credit history, the lender uses your employment and financial information to determine whether or not you can repay your credit limit it sets within a reasonable period.
  • Balance transfer information. If you’re transferring an existing debt to the new card, you will be asked for the account name and number, the provider’s BSB/clearing code, the type of debt and the amount you want to move to the new account.

Confirm what you need to provide and ensure you have it on hand before you start, to ensure a swift and successful application.

Tip #10: State your actual income

This is no time to be modest or to exaggerate your income. Deflating your income may sabotage your application by reducing the bank’s opinion of your ability to finance debt. So, if you have multiple income sources (such as from part-time employment, freelance jobs or government payments), make sure to include these details. Fabricating or inflating your income, on the other hand, might be considered fraud.

Compare credit cards for 2021

Name Product Purchase Rate Annual fee Balance Transfer Rate
OFFER
Q Mastercard
0% for 3 months (changes to 25.99% p.a.)
$50
0% p.a. for 36 months
0% p.a. for 36 months on balances transferred from eligible personal credit cards until 30 November 2021 - offer applies to new customers only. Plus get 3 months zero interest and zero payments on every purchase.
AIRPOINTS
American Express Airpoints Platinum Card
19.95% p.a.
$195
N/A
Be rewarded with 500 bonus Airpoints Dollars when you apply by 29 November 2021 are approved, and spend $1,500 on your new Card within the first 3 months. This offer is available to new Card Members only. Ts&Cs apply. You will also earn 1 Airpoints Dollar for every $59 you spend on your card.
OFFER
Farmers Mastercard
25.95% p.a.
$50
N/A
Get $100 worth of Farmers Club Vouchers when you spend and link your card to a Farmers Club Card - offer is for new applications only and ends on 31 October 2021.
Flight Centre Mastercard
22.95% p.a.
$50
N/A
Use your Flight Centre Mastercard for everyday shopping and earn rewards as you spend. Earn 2 Flight Centre rewards for every $100 spent at a Flight Centre Store and 1 reward point for standard purchases. Subject to lending criteria. Ts&Cs apply.
AIRPOINTS
American Express Airpoints Card
0% for 6 months (changes to 19.95% p.a.)
$0
N/A
Be rewarded with 100 bonus Airpoints Dollars when you apply by 28 February 2022, are approved and sped $750 on your new card within the first 3 months of membership. This offer is available to new Card Members only.
OFFER
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
2.99% for 6 months (changes to 19.95% p.a.)
$149
N/A
Enjoy a low rate on purchases and earn 20,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points if you apply, are approved and spend $750 in the first 3 months of Card membership. This offer is available to new Card Members only.
OFFER
American Express Platinum Card
N/A
$1,250
N/A
Get the new metal Platinum Card, 80,000 Membership Rewards bonus points, up to $300 dining credit and $200 to spend on travel each year. Offer available to new customers who apply online, are approved and spend at least $1,500 in the first 3 months. Exclusions, Ts&Cs apply.
LOW RATE
The Co-operative Bank Fair Rate Credit Card
12.95% p.a.
$20
0% p.a. for 6 months
0% p.a. on balance transfers for 6 months, plus benefit from a low rate of 12.95% on both purchases and cash advances.
AIRPOINTS
Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Low Fee Visa
16.9% p.a.
$25
1.99% p.a. for 6 months
1.99% on balance transfers for 6 months.
AIRPOINTS
Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Standard Visa
20.95% p.a.
$65
1.99% p.a. for 6 months
1.99% on balance transfers for 6 months.
LOW RATE
Kiwibank Low Rate Visa
9.95% p.a.
$30
1.99% p.a. for 6 months
1.99% on balance transfers for 6 months.
Gem Visa
25.99% p.a.
$52
N/A
6 months interest free on all Visa purchases $250 and over, plus get long-term interest-free deals at retailers nationwide including Apple, Noel Leeming, Mitre 10 and many more.
AIRPOINTS
Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Platinum Visa
20.95% p.a.
$150
1.99% p.a. for 6 months
1.99% on balance transfers for 6 months.
AIRPOINTS
ANZ Airpoints Visa Credit Card
19.95% p.a.
$65
N/A
Earn 1 Airpoints Dollar for every $130 you spend on your card.
AIRPOINTS
ANZ Airpoints Visa Platinum Credit Card
19.95% p.a.
$150
N/A
Earn 1 Airpoints Dollar for every $85 you spend. You'll also earn 1 Air New Zealand Status Point with every $250 spent.
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Mistakes to avoid when applying for a credit card

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Aside from the tips to adhere to before and during your application, the following are common mistakes to avoid if you want to increase your approval chances.

Don’t apply for multiple cards at once or within a short period

You may be tempted to apply for more than one credit card just in case your first one doesn’t get approved, but don’t. Each credit enquiry that a lender makes about your credit history is listed on your credit file for five years. If you apply for several credit cards at once or within a few months, it could appear to lenders that you have a lot of debt, even if that isn’t true. This could lead to a vicious cycle of applying for credit cards and not receiving approval. In fact, some banks may automatically reject your application if you’ve recently applied for a credit card.

Don’t apply for balance transfers between cards funded by the same bank

Note that you can only transfer the balance of a card that isn’t funded by the same bank as your new card. This can be tricky because it’s not always clear which bank funds what credit card. To ensure you know which banks you can transfer between, see our detailed guide.

What happens after I submit my application?

If you apply for a credit card online, you should receive a response within 60 seconds of submitting your completed application. If you’re successful, you will receive account details, then your new card should arrive in approximately 5 to 10 business days (although it may be longer in some cases). If the card issuer requires more information, your application may receive tentative approval, but they may also ask for further details. If you haven’t heard a response within a few days, you can usually contact the bank or check the status of your application online.

Applying for a credit card is a relatively simple process and can take as little as 10 minutes. However, if you don’t do your research beforehand, ensure you meet the eligibility requirements and prepare the necessary documents, you may reduce your approval chances.

Pictures: Shutterstock

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