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How Likely Are You to Get Approved for a Credit Card?

Guide to Checking Your Credit Card Approval Odds
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated February 13, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Applying for a credit card can be nerve-racking, since nobody likes the possibility of rejection. But there’s actually more on the line than just your ego. Each time you apply for a credit card, it leads to a hard inquiry on your credit, which can have a temporary negative effect on your score. That means that fewer cards you apply for, generally the better. How can you improve the odds that you’ll get approved? There are a number of steps you can take. Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Credit Card Approval Odds?

Your odds of being approved for a credit card will depend on multiple factors, including the issuer’s requirements, your credit history, and your income.According to a 2021 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, however, your credit score is likely to be the most important factor. Their research found that applicants with superprime credit (credit scores of 720 or above) had an 85% approval rate, whereas those with no credit had a 15% chance of approval. Those with prime credit (scores of 620-659) had a 43% approval rate.

Factors Credit Card Companies Consider Before Approval

Credit card issuers will consider several factors before deciding whether to approve your application, including your:
  • Credit score
  • Income
  • Monthly rent/mortgage payment
  • History with the card issuer
Generally, the most important credit card requirement is your credit score, which is designed to predict the likelihood that you’ll repay a loan. Some credit cards have minimum credit score requirements, and may not consider applicants that fall below that threshold.Issuers will also typically look at your income – both to determine whether or not to approve your application as well as how large of a line of credit they will offer. They may also consider your monthly rent or mortgage payment, since this impacts how much money you have available to repay your credit card debt.If you already have a relationship with the credit card issuer, and it’s been positive, that can improve your odds of approval.

Guide to Prequalifying for a Credit Card Approval

If you’re looking to open a new credit card but not sure if you’ll get approved, you may want to consider applying for prequalification. This type of application results in a soft credit inquiry, which won’t show up on your credit report or impact on your credit. Here’s how to do it.

Use a Prescreened Offer

You may have received offers in your snail mail or email that say you have been “prescreened” or “preapproved” for a particular credit card. You might get these offers from credit card companies that you already have a relationship with or that are affiliated in some way with your bank.Receiving a prescreened offer doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be approved, but it does indicate that your credit profile is consistent with the kind of customers that are approved for the card. However, just because the card reached out to you doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card for your needs. It can still be a good idea to shop around and compare multiple credit card offers.

Check the Card Issuer’s Website

When you go to a credit card company’s website, you may see a link where you can find out if you prequalify for a credit card.  When you click on it, you’ll typically get to an online form that asks for your name, address, and the last four digits of your social security number. Before you hit “submit”, however, you’ll want to make sure they present you with a disclaimer that explains that this is not an official application and requires you to acknowledge it. This means they will only do a soft pull on your credit.

What to Do if You Prequalify for Credit Card Approval

If you prequalify for a credit card, you may receive one or several credit card offers that you have good approval odds for. If you only receive one, you may want to submit multiple pre-qualification requests. This allows you to compare credit card offers, looking at the fees, annual percentage rates (APRs), rewards, credit limits, and benefits, and determine which one is the best fit for your needs.Once you’ve narrowed it down to your favorite, you’ll need to submit an official application. If you’re approved, great. If you’re denied, however, don't sweat it. You can simply submit an application for one of the other cards you were prequalified for.Recommended: How to Find the Right Credit Card

Why Preapproval Remarks Don’t Guarantee Approval

Getting preapproved for a credit card means there’s a good chance you’ll be approved for that card if you apply, but it isn’t a guarantee. The answer you get during prequalification is based on information in your credit report. When you officially apply for a credit card, the issuer will get a fuller picture of your financials, including your income. While a "yes" during prequalification is a good sign, there's still a chance it could turn into a "no" when you actually apply.

What to Do if You Don’t Prequalify for Credit Card Approval

If you don’t prequalify for a credit card, here are some next steps you may want to consider.
  • Applying for the card anyway. Though your chances of approval are low, the full application takes more factors into consideration, which may improve your chances. Keep in mind, though, that submitting an application for the card triggers a hard credit inquiry, which could temporarily lower your credit score by a few points.
  • Trying to prequalify for other cards. Just because you were denied prequalification by one card issuer doesn’t mean you won’t prequalify for another card. 
  • Considering a secured card. If you don’t have much credit history and are struggling to get prequalified for a credit card, you may want to look into applying for a secured credit card. This type of credit card is backed by a deposit, which then serves as your credit limit. If you use the card responsibly, you may be able to upgrade to a regular card with the same issuer.
Recommended: Getting a Credit Card With No Credit History 

Ways to Try Improving Your Credit Card Approval Odds

Whatever your credit profile, there may be ways to increase your odds of being approved for a new credit card account. Here are some to consider.

Check Your Credit Report and Score

Your credit report and score weigh heavily in credit card decisions, so if you haven’t checked yours in a while (or ever), now could be a good time. You can get your credit reports for free from the three main credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, through the website. Federal law allows you to get your reports for free once a year. Due to the financial issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the three bureaus now allow free weekly access.Once you receive your reports, it’s a good idea to comb through them and make sure all the information is correct. If you see an error or inaccuracy, you have the right to dispute it with the credit bureau that’s reporting the information.Your credit score will not be in your credit reports. However, many banks, credit card issuers, and lenders have started providing free credit scores for their customers. It may be on your statement, or you may be able to access it online by logging into your account. You can also obtain your free FICO® Score through Experian.Recommended: 5 Steps for Checking Your Credit Score

Manage Your Payment History and Credit Utilization

You may be able to up your odds of credit card approval by improving your payment history and reducing your credit utilization. Payment history is whether or not you’ve paid your bills on time, and makes up a full  35% of your score. While you can’t change the past, you can do your best to create a positive payment history by paying all of your bills on time.Credit utilization, which is how much of your total available credit you’re using at any given time, is also a major factor, affecting up to 30% of your score. You can calculate your credit utilization by dividing how much you currently owe by your credit limit. For example, if you have a total of $8,000 in credit available on a credit card and a balance of $4,000, your credit utilization rate is 50%. It’s generally recommended to keep your credit utilization under 30%. You may be able to reduce your ratio by paying down your credit card balances, keeping open credit accounts that have zero balances (even if you rarely use them), and requesting a credit limit increase from a credit card issuer.

Compare Cards Carefully

Another way to increase your chances of being approved for a new credit card account is to choose credit cards that fit your credit profile. For example, if you have fair credit, you may not want to bother applying for a premium rewards credit card that requires scores in the excellent range. By reading through the application information for a card and making sure you meet the credit card requirements, you’ll have a better shot of being approved for the card.

What to Do if You Don’t Get Approved for a Credit Card

If you are not approved for a credit card right away, don’t give up. Find out why you were denied (credit card issuers are required to disclose the reason why they declined your application in the rejection letter) then do what you can to address any issues they raise. Even If you can’t get approved today, you can continue to work on building healthy credit habits and try again in a few months.

The Takeaway

You can increase your odds of getting approved for a credit by learning more about the approval process, practicing good credit habits (such as paying your bills on time), and checking your credit reports for any errors.It can also be a good idea to get prequalified before you submit an application (and trigger a hard credit pull). With Lantern by SoFi’s credit card marketplace, you can shop different types of cards (including rewards, no-fee, and credit-building cards) and compare multiple offers all in one place.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the odds of being approved for a credit card when you have a low credit score?
What percent of credit card applications are denied?
Does not getting credit card approval hurt my credit?
What credit score do you need for credit card approval?
Photo credit: iStock/HAKINMHAN

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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