Applying for a credit card these days is as simple as entering your information into an online form and clicking “submit.” But getting approved for a credit card requires proactive planning that should start long before you apply.
Your creditÂ score is one of the most important factors inÂ aÂ credit card issuer’s decision to approve your application. Although there might be some variation depending on the bank you’re working with, scores are typically classified by lenders as follows:
300-629: Bad credit
630-689: Average credit
690-719: Good credit
720 and up: Excellent credit
Most rewards credit cards require good or excellent credit. So if you’ve struggled to maintain a good credit history, it may be worth it to put off applying until you can get your finances in top order. You can do this by making payments on time, keeping your balances low on existing credit cards and avoiding new debt.
Nerd note:Â There are multiple credit scoring models, with the two most prominent being theÂ FICO score and VantageScore. FICO scores, developed by Fair Isaac Corp., are the scores most commonly used by lenders in making creditÂ decisions. The VantageScore model wasÂ developed by the three major credit bureaus as a competitor to FICO.
Â» MORE: What’s my credit score?Â
A full 30% of your credit score is determined by how much you owe. High credit card balances can be especially damaging. Your credit utilization ratioÂâ your balance divided by your credit limit â should be below 30% on each credit card. So if, for example, you have a credit limit of $10,000, it’s recommended to keep theÂ balance below $3,000 at all times.
You can lower your credit utilization by creating a plan to pay down an existing balance as quickly as possible. Additionally, consider paying off purchases more than once a month to keep your balance lower throughout the month.
If you don’t have good credit, you may find it difficult to get approved for a card with a large sign-up bonus and a lucrative reward structure. Each credit card application ends up on your credit report, so the Nerds recommend using ourÂ toolÂ to find a card that fits your credit profile before applying. If you’re still unsure, call the card issuer and ask about a specific card’s requirements.
Your credit score is a good indicator of your overall creditworthiness, but it doesn’t tell lenders about one important thing: your income. Credit card issuers need your income level to calculate your debt-to-income ratio, which helps determine your ability to make payments. There are two ways to lower this ratio: increase income or decrease debt.
If you earn money outside your full-time job, include it on your application so that an accurate debt-to-income ratio will be reflected. However, resist the temptation to overstate your income. If an issuer finds that you knowingly provided false information on your application, you could be charged with credit card fraud, which is punishable by up to $1 million in fines and/or 30 years of imprisonment.
If you think you’ve done everything right and your application is still denied, don’t move on just yet. Credit card issuers have reconsideration lines you can call to plead your case.
Have a plan before you call. You have the right to ask the issuerÂ why you wereÂ denied, and you can also check your free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to see if there are any blemishes on your history. Formulate a convincing argument as to why you want the card and why you are fiscally responsible. Above all, be polite. Customer service agents are much more likely to respond positively if you have a pleasant demeanor.
Being denied for a credit card hurts â both psychologically and in terms ofÂ the effect on your credit score. That’s whyÂ it’s essential to take stock of your credit situation beforeÂ you apply for your next card. Also, make sure to give accurate information during the application process and be prepared to make aÂ case for yourself in the event you aren’t approved immediately.
This article has been updated. It was originally published May 26, 2015.
Photo via iStock.
The article How to Apply for a Credit Card So Youâll Get Approved originally appeared on NerdWallet.