How To Qualify for a Credit Card

Getting a credit card isn’t as simple as filling out the application and getting approved. Credit card issuers have criteria they consider for each credit card applicant.

Before you apply for a credit card, it helps to know how to qualify for a credit card. That way, you can estimate your chances of getting approved and save yourself a credit inquiry if it's more likely that you'll be denied.

Make Sure You're Old Enough for a Credit Card

Person holding a credit card issued before they turned 21 years of age.
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The legal age to qualify for a credit card on your own is 18. However, you'll need to have a regular source of income before you can be approved for a credit card. Otherwise, it's likely you'll have to have someone apply for a joint credit card with you.

The income requirements don't require you to work full-time to get a credit card. You can put your annual earnings from your part-time campus job on your credit card application. If it’s high enough to repay a credit card balance, the credit card issuer will consider you.

Have Your Own Income

Person counting change in their hand that was taken from a wallet
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To qualify for a credit card, you need to have income of your own, or at least have "reasonable access" to any household income. Reasonable access can include deposits into a shared account or regular transfers from the wage earner's account to your account.

The new restriction means you can’t put your parents' income on the credit card application unless you’re applying for a joint credit card or your parent is giving you money or paying your bills every month.


Having a reliable source of income gives you the ability to pay for the credit card purchases you make. Not only do you need to have your own source of income, but your monthly income should also be high enough for the credit limit you’re asking for.

Have a Positive Credit History

A Credit Report showing account balances and credit history is needed when getting a credit card.
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Good credit history will help you get approved for a credit card. The better your credit score, the more likely it is you’ll be approved.

Some credit card issuers only approve applicants who have spotless credit reports. Others will approve your application as long as your late payments aren’t in the past two years. 

Having a negative credit history with a specific credit card issuer could keep you from getting approved by that same issuer. For example, if you had a charge-off with a prior Capital One credit card, you might not get approved for a new card from Capital One for at least one year.


If you don't have the best credit score, look specifically for credit cards that approve applicants with a bad credit history.

Don't Have a Lot of Debt

A cut up credit card on top of past due bills indicates a need to reduce debt.
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Credit card issuers will consider the amount of your other credit card balances and loans before they approve your application.

If your credit utilization is too high, you might be denied. How much debt is too much varies by the credit card issuer and by the type of credit card you apply for. Aim to keep your credit card debt below 30% of your credit limit.

A credit card issuer might compare your debt to your income to decide whether you can afford another credit card balance based on your other debt payments. A high debt-to-income ratio would indicate that you don’t have enough income to pay back another credit card balance.

Get a Co-Signer

Woman co-signing loan sitting in the office of a banker
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If you can’t qualify for a credit card on your own—because you’re not old enough, you don’t have sufficient income, or you have bad credit—you can ask a friend or family member to co-sign your application. The co-signer has to meet the credit card’s qualifications for both of you to be approved.

When you ask someone to help you get a credit card, that person is taking a risk by co-signing for you. If you don’t pay the balance back, the co-signer will be responsible for the balance and will receive any credit damage from payments you've missed on the account.


Being added as an authorized user on an existing account is an alternative that can help boost your credit score enough to qualify on your own.

Save up a Security Deposit

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People with new credit or bad credit, who can’t get approved for a regular credit card, may have more luck with a secured credit card.

The secured credit card requires you to make a security deposit against your credit limit before you can be approved. After about a year of timely payments, you may qualify for an unsecured credit card, presuming no other negative information is added to your credit report.

Many secured credit card issuers will accept a security deposit as low as $200. If you don’t have that much, start setting aside $50 to $100 each month until you have a good security deposit saved up.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Discover Bank. "How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?"

  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "The CFPB Amends Card Act Rule to Make it Easier for Stay-at-Home Spouses and Partners to Get Credit Cards."

  3. Capital One. "Quicksilver from Capital One. "

  4. Fair Isaac Corporation. "What is Amounts Owed?"

  5. JPMorgan Chase. "What is Debt to Income Ratio and Why Is It Important?"

  6. Discover. "What is a Secured Credit Card?"

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