What to know before filling out a credit card application

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In a Nutshell

Before you complete a credit card application, equip yourself with this knowledge to help you through the process.

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Filling out a credit card application is required to get a credit card, but it doesn’t need to be a scary process.

Before you put a single letter or number on an application, it helps to have knowledge about the process. This can help you feel more confident and informed as you fill out a credit card application.

Read on to get an idea of what you’ll see on a credit card application and what information you should have on hand prior to completing one.

One warning: Applying for too many credit cards around the same time can make you appear to be a riskier borrower so be careful about how many cards you apply for.

What information do you need to fill out a credit card application?

Before you can get approval for a card,  the issuer — generally a bank or credit union — wants to know who you are and whether it should extend credit to you.

Therefore, an application will require your personal information. You’ll likely know most of answers off the top of your head, but be prepared to dig up a few details when you’re going through the application process.

Here are some details you’ll typically need to supply on a credit card application.

  • Name
  • Address
  • How long you’ve lived at that address
  • Whether you own or rent your home or have another type of living arrangement
  • Country of citizenship
  • Country of residence
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Employment status
  • Total annual income
  • Sources of income
  • Financial assets

Keep in mind that application requirements can vary from issuer to issuer.

According to the Navy Federal Credit Union, having the right information in hand may help simplify the application process and may boost the likelihood of your application being approved.

Understanding terminology on a credit card application

You’ll come across some credit card terms on the application or in the credit card’s terms and conditions. Here’s some of the terminology and what it means.

Annual percentage rate for purchases — The interest rate reflecting the total annual cost of the interest on your card purchase balance if you don’t pay the balance in full each month.

For example, Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card offers a regular variable APR for purchases and balance transfers ranging from 16.24% - 26.24%.

From our partner
See Details, Rates & Fees

APR for balance transfers — The interest rate reflecting the total annual cost of the interest on your credit card balance amount that you transferred from one outstanding credit card to another.

There may be an introductory 0% APR that applies for a limited amount of time, which gives you a chance to pay down your transferred balance interest-free.

Balance transfer fee — Most banks will charge you a fee to transfer a balance onto your card. This typically ranges between 3 and 5% of each balance transfer.

APR for cash advances — The interest rate reflecting the total annual cost of the interest on the cash that you borrow against your credit card balance.

Cash advance APRs tend to run high and the interest starts accruing the day you borrow the cash — therefore, it’s best that you pay off your advance as quickly as possible before the interest charges pile up.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express has a cash advance variable APR of 27.49%.

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Cash advance fee — Interest charges aren’t the only cost you’ll rack up when you get a cash advance – many banks also charge cash advance fees per transaction. This fee generally ranges from 3 to 5% of each transaction.

Minimum interest charge — The least amount of interest you’ll be charged if you carry a balance on your card from one billing period to the next. It’s normally a small sum, such as $1. If you don’t carry a balance on your card, you won’t face a minimum interest charge.

Annual fee — This yearly fee, charged by the issuer, lets you use the card and reap any associated benefits, such as cash back rewards. Many cards don’t carry annual fees but cards with great rewards often have annual fees.

Transaction fee — A transaction fee is an amount charged in addition to the APRs associated with your account for each type of transaction that a borrower makes.

One of the best examples is a foreign transaction fee, which some card issuers charge when a cardholder uses a card in another country or makes a purchase from home with a foreign vendor who runs the transaction in a currency other than the U.S. dollar.

A foreign transaction fee is generally 3% of the purchase price, but it depends on the issuer and the particular card.

Penalty fees — A card issuer charges you with these fees when you slip up, such as going over your credit limit or making a late payment.

What should you know before you apply? 

Before completing a credit card application, consider taking these steps to ensure you’re making the wisest financial decisions.

1. Look up your credit

A card issuer typically will check your credit when deciding whether to approve your credit card application. On Credit Karma, you can see your credit scores and reports from Equifax and TransUnion, calculated using VantageScore 3.0.

Card issuers will likely look at a different score and use a different scoring model; however, while your scores may vary, they’re all based on information in your credit reports. Focusing on what’s in your reports can help you build your credit overall.

2. Dispute any errors on your credit reports

After you’ve viewed your credit reports, you may have noticed some errors. Incorrect information on a credit report can jeopardize your chances of getting a credit card, so be sure to dispute any errors you spot.

Look for these errors on your credit report.

  • Accounts you closed that are reported as open
  • Accounts that are incorrectly reported as late or delinquent
  • Accounts listed with the wrong credit limit
  • Accounts, such as credit cards and loans, that aren’t yours

If you’re a Credit Karma member, you can use our Direct Dispute tool to dispute errors you spot on your TransUnion credit report.

TransUnion will review your request (typically within 30 days) and will let you know if the item(s) will stay on your report, be modified or removed from your report.

3. See if you’re prequalified

Applying for a credit card can be nerve-wracking as you wait to find out if you’ve been approved. However, getting prequalified for an offer can help relieve some of the uncertainty.

Prequalification doesn’t mean you’re approved for the credit card — it generally means that the issuer has reviewed your credit, you meet some key criteria and if you continue to meet the issuer’s requirements (including income requirements) when you apply, you’ll likely be approved.

We can’t stress enough that prequalification is NOT a guarantee that you’ll be approved. Rather, think of it as an invitation to apply.

Also, not all issuers offer prequalification as an option — and some issuers may have prequalification for some of their cards and not for others.

Can prequalification hurt your credit scores?

Bottom line

If you’re prepared with the information required to fill out on a credit card application and you educate yourself about the credit card options available to you, you’re less likely to run into obstacles during the application process.