A woman in a white button down shirt holding a credit card

How to Apply for a Credit Card

How to Get a Credit Card in 5 Steps

It’s no longer news that you need a credit card to survive in the U.S. Apart from saving your money and making virtual payments with them, credit cards also play a significant role in helping you build a strong and reliable credit score. Subsequently, you’ll be able to boost your chances of getting loans, mortgages, and other financial products.

However, not everyone understands how to get a credit card online. For others who know how to apply for a credit card, knowing the right credit card to choose amongst the myriad available options is a challenge. We understand you may not know where to start, what documents you need, and the right things to do to get a card approval — especially if you’re an international student or new U.S. resident.

So, in this article, we reveal all you need to know before your credit card application to help you make the process easier and ultimately increase your chances of approval.

1. Get a Social Security Number

The social security number (SSN) is one of the major prerequisites banks require before processing a credit card. If you’re an international student or someone who has relocated to the United States, this is the first step to take when thinking of how to get a credit card.

The SSN is usually assigned to someone with the license to work in the U.S., so even if you’re a student on an F-1 visa, you need an SSN to report your wages and qualify for Social Security benefits. And as long as you have work authorization in the U.S., you can apply for an SSN.

The SSN application process is relatively straightforward. All you have to do is fill out an application form for a social security card and submit all the required documents showing your proof of employment and personal information, like your age and identity. Upon completing the form, submit it to the local Social Security office close to you in person.

2. Find Out Your Credit Score

If you already live and work in the US with a social security number or have completed the first step, the next line of action is to know your credit score. A credit score is a 3-digit number representing your credit history, which determines your creditworthiness.

Usually, credit scores are between 300 (poor) and 850 (excellent), and they’re calculated by three credit agencies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. However, you should note that your payment history, outstanding debts, and credit line history automatically affect your credit score. So, to get a credit card online, ensure you’ve settled your debts and other financial obligations like monthly rent and utility bills before applying for a credit card.

3. Determine the Right Credit Card For You

Credit cards vary by credit scores and issuing companies. So, you should determine the most suitable card for your personal needs. There are six categories of credit cards:

  1. Secured Credit Cards: Perfect for poor credit and people looking to build their credit scores.
  2. 0% Intro APR Credit Cards: Suitable for individuals with month-to-month payments. Users enjoy interest-free transactions over a certain period.
  3. Student Cards: Suitable for students with limited income and credit history.
  4. Travel Rewards Cards: Perfect for people who are constantly catching flights and paying for tickets, hotels, rental cars, etc.
  5. Premium Rewards Cards: Suitable for high earners and big spenders with excellent credit scores. Note that premium rewards cards usually charge an annual fee between $95 to $695. So, they are not the ideal cards for first-timers.
  6. Regular Rewards Cards: Best for anyone looking to earn credit card rewards like 0% APR, unlimited cashback, etc. You may go for this card type if you’re a first-time cardholder.

4. Apply For a Credit Card

Now that you’ve decided on the best credit card type for your needs, it’s time to apply for a credit card. For your credit card application, you’ll need to provide information like your name, permanent address (or school address if you’re a student), source of income and total income, social security number, credit score estimate, and monthly rent/mortgage amount.

The easiest way to get a credit card is to apply online on a secure site owned by a financial institution. This way, you’ll mitigate the risk of identity and data theft. We also recommend that you don’t apply for more than one credit card at a time to boost your chances of being accepted.

5. Patiently Wait For Feedback

Upon submitting your credit card application online, you’ll need to wait patiently for the card issuer’s feedback. Usually, credit cards application can take days or weeks, but you’ll certainly receive an email informing you whether your card was approved or not.

Final Notes

Credit card applications are not as easy as they seem. A good credit score or source of income is no guarantee that your card application will be approved — especially if you’re just arriving in the USA. 

But to save yourself from the stress of going back and forth with different applications, we recommend you find your credit score and apply for a credit card within your score range. This mutual fit will give you a good approval chance and save you time, stress, and money.