Whether youâ€™ve been stood up for a date or passed over for a job, rejection hurts. A â€œnoâ€ from a credit card issuer can be disappointing, too, but itâ€™s nothing personal.
Call the issuer and ask why you were rejected, says NerdWalletâ€™s credit cards expert Sean McQuay. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the issuer has to give you a specific reason, as long as you inquire within 60 days of being notified. Next, follow these steps, depending on the reason you receive.
If you have a limited credit history
Itâ€™s difficult to get a card if you have a short credit history. Here are a few things you can do to obtain a card while building your credit:
- Look for a card that allows a co-signer. Ask a family member or close friend with good or excellent credit to co-sign. Make sure you both understand that the co-signer will be on the hook to pay your debts if you donâ€™t.
- Apply for a secured card. Secured credit cards require a refundable security deposit thatâ€™s usually equal to the amount of the credit line, which serves as collateral if you donâ€™t make payments. Before you sign up, verify with the issuer that it reports your payment activity to the credit bureaus. This way, you can be sure this route will help you build your credit history.
- Become an authorized user. Consider asking a family member or partner to add you as an authorized user to their credit card. You donâ€™t legally own the account, so the main account holder is responsible for any charges you donâ€™t pay. Some cards report authorized user activity to the credit bureaus and some donâ€™t â€” ask before signing up.
Think of these options as starter cards. â€œBy paying your bills on time, youâ€™ll be able to build up your credit to the point that you can apply for the card you want,â€ McQuay says.
If you have a poor credit score
A credit score is a three-digit number between 300 and 850 that reflects your credit history. Card issuers put a lot of weight on this score, because it shows how responsible youâ€™ve been when borrowing money. In simplest terms, a good or excellent score shows issuers youâ€™ve borrowed money and consistently paid it back. A fair or poor score can hurl your application into the rejection pile.
If you have bad credit, consider getting a co-signer, applying for secured card or becoming an authorized user. That way, youâ€™ll have access to a credit card and an opportunity to repair your credit. Boost your score by paying bills on time and keeping your balances to less than 30% of your credit limit. Follow these best practices for six to 12 months, and youâ€™ll likely see your score rise.
If your income is low or youâ€™re unemployed
Issuers are typically wary of applicants with little or no income. When applying for a credit card, list all types of funds to which you have â€œreasonable access,â€ McQuay says. That includes side-gig payments, your spouseâ€™s earnings and, for students, loans and Pell Grants, he says.
If youâ€™ve been denied for this reason, â€œcall your bank immediately and lay out your case,â€ McQuay says. Mention any sources of income you didnâ€™t include in your application or assets that you have. If youâ€™ve been loyal to the institution or have a glowing financial history, it doesnâ€™t hurt to mention that, either.
A solid case may prompt the bank rep to reverse your rejection or point you toward a card for which youâ€™re more likely to be approved. A pleasant demeanor helps, too.
â€œAlways be nice,â€ McQuay says. â€œTheyâ€™re real people, too.â€
This post was written by Laura McMullen on behalf of Nerd Wallet.