Home > Credit Cards > I Keep Getting Rejected for a Credit Card. What Am I Doing Wrong?

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There are lots of reasons to add a credit card to your wallet. Maybe you need to build credit. Maybe you’re looking to score extra rewards via a big sign-on bonus. Or maybe you’re looking to transfer a balance on an existing card to pay off your debts at a lower interest rate.

Whatever the reason, simply wanting (or needing) some new plastic won’t necessarily qualify you for a card. Each lender has different underwriting standards, and you’ll need to meet that criteria to secure approval. Still, if you’re getting rejected every time you fill out an application, there’s a good chance something’s gone wrong.

Here are some common reasons people get rejected for a credit card (and some tips for getting around them).

1. You’re Applying for the Wrong Cards

Believe it or not, you can get a credit card with bad or thin credit. In fact, there’s plastic specifically designed for those who need to build or rebuild their credit. So, while a lackluster credit score could definitely be the culprit, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get approved for a card. You may just need to start applying for plastic your current credit profile can qualify for — like a secured credit card, which requires cardholders put down a deposit that serves as their credit limit, or student credit cards, which are geared to young consumers looking to establish a credit history.

Once you do obtain a credit card, be sure to use it responsibly (i.e. make all payments on time and keep debt levels as low as possible) to improve your credit score. That way, you can apply for credit cards with better terms and conditions down the road.

2. Your Income Is Too Low

Credit card issuers don’t only check your credit when you apply for a card — they also generally ask you for job and income information. And, yes, your current employment status or salary could wind up disqualifying you for a particular line of credit. Again, to minimize the odds of rejection, research credit cards that aren’t clearly being marketed to big spenders, like premium credit cards loaded with perks and a high (think $100 and up) annual fee.

3. You’ve Applied for Other Cards Recently

Some issuers view a long list of new credit inquiries as a sign of danger ahead, the idea being that you either need or will misuse all that new credit. So, even if your credit score is in good shape following an application spree — each generates a hard inquiry on your credit report that could ding your score — you could be getting denied due to all those recent applications.

4. You’ve Fallen Victim to Identity Theft

If these rejections are coming as a big surprise, you may want to check your credit reports for signs of identity theft. Fraudulent accounts or inquiries could be hurting your score and leading you to get rejected for cards that you would otherwise qualify for. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view your two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) If you discover you’re a victim of identity theft, be sure to report it to the proper authorities and to dispute the information with the credit bureaus. You can learn more about what to do if you’re a victim of identity theft here.

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