How Credit Card Applications Work

A credit card begins with a successful application.

A credit card begins with a successful application.

Ever wonder what happens to your credit card application once you submit it? The creditor analyzes the information you provide to determine whether you are likely to repay your debts if you're extended credit. While applicants nervously ponder the application's fate, creditors are working out the details.

Application Process

To get a credit card you must first fill out an application. The application asks for your personal and financial information. Some credit cards charge an application fee, while others don't. Read the fine print during the application process, as you may be agreeing to certain terms at this time. Once the application is complete and submitted, it is processed. Online applications can be processed in minutes; paper applications or those requiring a manual review can take weeks to process.


The information contained on the application is verified by the credit card company. You can expect the company to check your credit record from one or more of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They may look at your credit scores, your payment history and your overall debt to decide how likely you are to pay them back. Additionally, they will look at your income that you reported to determine whether you can afford the credit card. Creditors may choose to verify some or all of the information you provided on the application, or they may take your word for some of the items.


Once the application and credit scores are reviewed, the credit card company assesses your information to see which credit card you qualify for based on the creditor's criteria. The more perks the card has, the higher the criteria usually are. If your income or credit score is low, you may still be approved for a credit card, but the credit limit or interest rate may be different from what you were hoping for. The terms you qualify for will be disclosed to you. You will get a notice of the decision that finalizes the application process.

Special Populations

It used to be that just about anyone could get a credit card; all you had to do was ask. Credit markets have dried up in the early 21st century, and some people have a tougher time getting approved. The Consumer Credit Protection Act was amended in 2009 to protect young consumers from the ramifications of credit card debt. Applicants under the age of 21 must have a co-signer over the age of 21, must prove they have independent means for paying the debt and must complete a certified financial literacy program.


About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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