What you need to apply for a credit card

Find out exactly what information is required for your credit card application here.

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Getting a new credit card is always subject to application approval from the bank or card issuer. The exact requirements you’ll need to meet vary between credit card providers, but there are a few common eligibility requirements you’ll have to meet and information that you will have to provide that will be consistent from bank to bank.

This guide outlines the basic requirements and information you need to ensure your credit card application process goes as smoothly as possible.

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What are the eligibility requirements?

The basic credit card eligibility criteria vary based on the type of credit card and the provider, but generally include the following:

  • Age. You must be 21 years old to apply for a credit card in the United States. You can apply if you are at least 18 if you have a parent’s permission or a verifiable source of income.
  • Residency status. Most credit card providers require you to be a permanent resident or citizen of the U.S. But there are a limited number of cards available for temporary residents with valid visas.
  • Income. Before the CARD Act of 2009, credit card companies would give cards to anyone, even those with no income. But more standards are in place, and income can sometimes be a factor in the credit card you apply for.
  • Credit history. You must have good credit history to apply for most credit cards. If you’re struggling with no or low credit, you can rebuild your credit score with a secured credit card.

What information will I need to provide on my application?

The order of this information could vary depending on the credit card you’re applying for, but you will need to include details in the following categories.

Personal information

Most credit card applications begin by requesting details about your personal information. Ensure that all of the following information you provide is correct:

  • Personal information. This includes your full name and date of birth.
  • Citizenship. Are you a citizen of the U.S.?
  • Social Security number. Most banks require a Social Security number, but there are ways around it. You might be able to supply your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), if you have one, instead. Anyone can obtain an ITIN to apply for a card. Regardless of immigration status, you can apply for one through the IRS.
  • Residential address. These details relate to your current home address and the length of time you have been there. In certain cases, you could also be asked to provide information on previous residential addresses.
  • Contact details. Most lenders now require a valid email address as well as a phone number.

Note that if you are applying for a joint credit card account, all of the same information will be required for the additional applicant.

Employment and income information

The financial institution that you are applying with may want to verify that you are receiving a steady income. To do this they will ask for:

  • Your occupation. For example, you’ll need to provide your title and the field you work in, and whether you work full or part time.
  • Employer information. You’ll need to specify the amount of time you’ve been with your current employer and provide your employer’s name and contact information. In some cases, you may also be asked to list previous employment details as well.
  • Income. Include details of your annual income before taxes, as well as any secondary income you may receive, such as benefits or child support.
  • Self-employed. If you are self-employed when applying for a credit card, you may need to provide your previous year’s income tax returns to verify your income.

Financial information

The financial information portion of a credit card application helps to determine if you qualify for the card. It also helps in determining your credit limit. Information you’ll need to provide here includes:

  • Account details. This includes details for savings and checking accounts, along with the current balances.
  • Assets. Assets could include savings, investments and property.
  • Monthly housing payments. You will be asked to provide the amount of your monthly mortgage or rent payment.
  • Credit and other bets. You’ll need to provide details of any existing credit accounts or debts, such as credit cards, personal loans or car payments.

Card preferences

At this point in your application, you will be asked for your card preferences and often given the option for a balance transfer. Information in this section will include:

  • Additional cardholders and their details. If you have an eligible partner or dependent who you’d like to add as an additional cardholder, make sure to have their personal details on hand for this part of the application. You will need to provide their full name, age and contact information.
  • Balance transfer. If you are applying for a balance transfer from an existing card to the new card, you will need to include details of your current credit card account, the financial institution and the amount of debt that you wish to transfer. Also note that you may not be able to transfer the balance from a card that is issued by the same provider. For example, you can’t transfer a balance from one Citibank card to another Citibank card.

After you have completed these steps, you will be asked to review your details before hitting the “submit” button. Thoroughly check your form for accuracy, and remember that the application cannot be recalled once it’s submitted. It will also trigger an inquiry on your credit file, so make sure it’s worthwhile.

What else do I need to remember when applying?

Depending on the type of credit card you’re applying for, you may be required to provide proof of your income and other supporting financial documentation for approval.

  • Supporting documentation. After you have submitted the initial application (or during the application), you may be required to provide documentation that supports the information provided. This typically includes identifying documents with a photo, several recent paystubs and/or tax documents.
  • Document submission. Check out how the process works for verifying your documents. In some cases, you may be able upload copies online via a secure service, while in others you might have to bring them into a branch.
  • “Instant” approval. Most credit card applications you submit online will provide you with a response within 60 seconds. Remember that if you are approved at this stage, you may still have to provide the supporting documents in order to receive and activate your card.

If you do the research first and gather together all of the information required, filling out a credit card application online will only take a few minutes. And thanks to the convenience of 60-second approval times, you could know within 15 minutes of clicking “Apply now” whether you will be getting a brand new credit card.

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