11 Reasons You Can't Get a Credit Card

Denied credit card application
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If you want a credit card, you have to go through the approval process. The credit card issuer will review your application information along with your credit history to determine whether you qualify for the credit card.

While specific qualification criteria can vary from one credit card issuer to the next, and even among credit cards from the same credit card issuer, there are some things that make it harder to get a credit card no matter which card you apply for.

Unfortunately, if any of these are true for you, you could have a harder time getting approved for a credit card.

Why You Might Have a Hard Time Getting a Credit Card

  1. Being under age 21. In the early 2000s, it was extremely easy for college students and other young adults to get credit cards. The government decided it was a little too easy and passed legislation requiring credit card issuers to verify the income of applicants under age 21. If you’re a young adult, make sure you have regular, reliable income before you apply for a credit card.
  2. Never having credit before. People just starting out with credit run into a dilemma. You need to have had credit to be approved for a credit card, but you can’t get credit because you can’t get approved. The first credit card is often the most difficult to get because you have to find a credit card issuer and a credit card that’s suited for people without a credit history.
  1. A short credit history. It doesn’t instantly get easier to get a credit card after you've been approved for the first one. Until you’ve built several months of solid credit history—paying on time and managing your credit card balance—​other credit card issuers may still be cautious about approving you for a credit card.
  1. Recent bankruptcy. Very few credit card issuers are willing to take a risk on an applicant who is fresh out of a bankruptcy. Some credit card issuer’s won’t approve you until the bankruptcy has fallen off your credit report completely. Wait at least a year after your bankruptcy discharge before you apply for a credit card again.
  2. Recent late payments. If you’ve been 30 or more days late on a credit card payment recently, you could have a harder time getting approved for a credit card, even if the late payment didn’t cause a big drop in your credit score. Late payments indicate that you’re a risky borrower. After making several months of on time payments, the late payment has less of an impact on your credit rating and you’ll have an easier time getting approved.
  3. Several past delinquencies. Considering that just one recent late payment can make it harder to get a credit card, it makes sense that having multiple late payments and other delinquencies can also make it harder. Charge-offs, collection, foreclosure, repossession, and lawsuit judgments all tarnish your credit history and make credit card issuers wary of approving you for a credit card.
  4. High balances on credit cards and loans. High balances mean high monthly payments and a risk of defaulting on new credit card balances. Carrying a lot of debt will make it harder to get a credit card, even if you’re looking for a credit card to help alleviate some of your debt burden.
  1. No or low income. The law requires that credit card issuers, before approving your application, make sure you have enough income to repay your credit card balance. If you don’t have a job or you don’t make much money, you’ll have a harder time getting approved for a credit. Not only because the law requires you to be able to afford your credit card, but also because the credit card issuers need to know that you can repay back the balance you’ve borrowed.
  2. Fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is meant to prevent credit card fraud. But, it does this by prompting credit card issuers to take extra steps to verify your identity before approving your applications. You may find that some online credit card applications cannot be processed because the card issuer needs additional information from you to make sure that it’s really you who’s applying for the credit card.
  1. Recent applications for credit. Too many recent credit card applications can indicate that you’re in financial trouble and you’re looking for a credit card to ail you out. It could also mean that you’re taking on more credit than you can handle. If you apply for several credit cards in a short period of time, you might notice that your applications are being denied. Instead of applying for more credit cards, wait a few months before applying again.
  2. Last new account too recent. Even just one recently opened account can make it harder to get a credit card. Many credit card issuers want to make sure you can handle your new obligation responsibly before they will approve you for another credit card. Waiting a few months between credit card applications and improve the chances of you getting approved.

How to Get a Credit Card, Even When It's Hard

If you’re finding it hard to get a credit card, there are some things you can do. First, wait for the credit card issuer to tell you why you were denied. They’re required to send an adverse action letter explaining the reasons for their decision and give you access to a free credit report, if one was used in making the decision to deny your application.

Review your credit report to make sure the information in it is accurate. Dispute any inaccuracies with the credit bureaus.

Try getting a secured credit card. When credit card issuers turn down your credit card application, it’s because they view you as a risky borrower. A secured credit card shifts the risk because you have to make a security deposit against the credit limit. The credit card issuer is more likely to approve you because they can use the security deposit if you default.

Once you have a secured credit card, or two, use it as an opportunity to turn your credit history around. Make your payments on time each month and manage your credit card balance. After several months of timely payments, your credit card issuer may convert your card to an unsecured card. And, if not, you may have built up a solid enough credit history to qualify on your own.