Do Personal Finance Yourself.

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Credit Cards

Apply for a card

To obtain the credit card of your choice, you'll need to submit an application that involves some investigation into your financial health.

The application

Credit card applications ask for background information on you and your financial status, which is then shared with credit bureaus to gain an even deeper history of your debts, property and financial activity.

What you'll be asked for

A financial summary

Many issuers ask for a self-reported summary of the bank accounts you have open and an estimate of your monthly housing costs.

Source of income

If you don't have a job, you can substitute other regular sources of cash, such as money from parents or a joint checking account.

Status of citizenship

Issuers are legally required to verify your identity, making the status of your citizenship fair game.

Personal information

Similar to other financial forms, be prepared to provide your date of birth and social security number.

Contact information

So that issuers can get in touch with you, you'll be asked to provide an address, e-mail and phone number. 

If you lack a credit history...

Get a co-signer

Parents can be a co-signer on your application, which puts them on the hook of making sure the bill is paid.

Be an authorized user

By being an authorized user on another's credit card account, you can use their timely payments to boost your credit.

Get a secured card

A secured card is a stepping stone to regular one that requires an initial deposit that is returned after consistent payments.

The outcome

The decision on your application carries more consequences than just whether or not you get the card. Before you even begin using it, your credit score can be impacted.

How credit scores are affected

Credit inquiries

For issuers to gauge your creditworthiness, they send an inquiry to credit bureaus, the act of which can change your score.

Credit utilization

A new card increases your total available credit and decreases utilization until you make purchases, helping your score.

Age of accounts

Your new card decreases the average age of your credit accounts, which can lower your score.

What comes with the decision

(If denied) A reason

Issuers will inform you of the reason behind a denial, whether due to items in your credit history, or not having one at all.

A credit limit

Your new card will have a limit on what you can borrow, which depends on other cards you have and your overall credit profile.

Card information

After approval, you'll receive your card in the mail, which includes a 16-digit number, expiration date and security code.