11 Reasons You Can't Get a Credit Card

Denied credit card application
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If you want a credit card, you have to go through the approval process. The credit card issuer will review your application information along with your credit history to determine whether you qualify for the credit card. Some credit card issuers allow you to check online to see whether you're pre-qualified. This can give you an idea of the credit cards you're most likely to qualify for and save you a wasted credit card application.

Why You Might Have a Hard Time Getting a Credit Card

While specific qualification criteria can vary from one credit card issuer to the next, and even among credit cards from the same credit card issuer, there are some things that make it harder to get a credit card, no matter which card you apply for. Unfortunately, if any of these is true for you, you could have a harder time getting approved for a credit card.

You're Under Age 21

In the early 2000s, it was extremely easy for college students and other young adults to get credit cards. The government decided it was a little too easy and passed legislation requiring credit card issuers to verify the income of applicants under age 21. If you’re a young adult, make sure you have regular, reliable income before you apply for a credit card.

You've Never Had Credit Before

People just starting out with credit run into a dilemma. You need to have had credit to be approved for a credit card, but you can’t get credit because you can’t get approved. The first credit card is often the most difficult to get because you have to find a credit card issuer and a credit card that’s suited for people without a credit history.

You Have a Short Credit History

It doesn’t instantly get easier to get a credit card after you've been approved for the first one. Until you’ve built several months of solid credit history—paying on time and managing your credit card balance—​other credit card issuers may still be cautious about approving you for a credit card.

You've Recently Filed Bankruptcy

Very few credit card issuers are willing to take a risk on an applicant who is fresh out of a bankruptcy. Some credit card issuer’s won’t approve you until the bankruptcy has fallen off your credit report completely. Wait at least a year after your bankruptcy discharge before you apply for a credit card again.

You Have Recent Late Payments

If you’ve been 30 or more days late on a credit card payment recently, you could have a harder time getting approved for a credit card, even if the late payment didn’t cause a big drop in your credit score. Late payments indicate that you’re a risky borrower. After making several months of on time payments, the late payment has less of an impact on your credit rating and you’ll have an easier time getting approved.

You Have Several Past Delinquencies

Your credit card is delinquent once you are past due on your monthly payments. Considering that just one recent late payment can make it harder to get a credit card, it makes sense that having multiple late payments and other delinquencies can also make it harder. Charge-offs, collection, foreclosure, repossession, and lawsuit judgments all tarnish your credit history and make credit card issuers wary of approving you for a credit card.

You Have High Balances on Credit Cards and Loans

High balances mean high monthly payments and a risk of defaulting on new credit card balances. Carrying a lot of debt will make it harder to get a credit card, even if you’re looking for a credit card to help alleviate some of your debt burden.

You Have No or Low Income

The law requires that credit card issuers, before approving your application, make sure you have enough income to repay your credit card balance. If you don’t have a job or don’t make much money, you’ll have a harder time getting approved for a credit, not only because the law requires you to be able to afford your credit card, but also because the credit card issuers need to know that you can repay back the balance you’ve borrowed.

There's a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report

A fraud alert can protect you by preventing identity theft by prompting credit card issuers to take extra steps to verify your identity before approving your applications. You may find that some online credit card applications cannot be processed, because the card issuer needs additional information from you to make sure that it’s really you who’s applying for the credit card.

You've Applied for Several Cards Recently

Too many recent credit card applications can indicate that you’re in financial trouble and you’re looking for a credit card to bail you out. It could also mean that you’re taking on more credit than you can handle. If you apply for several credit cards in a short period of time, you might notice that your applications are being denied. Instead of applying for more credit cards, wait a few months before applying again.

You Recently Opened a New Credit Card

Even just one recently opened account can make it harder to get approved, depending on the credit card. Many credit card issuers want to make sure you can handle your new obligation responsibly before they will approve you for another credit card. Waiting a few months between credit card applications can improve the chances of you getting approved.

How to Get a Credit Card, Even When It's Hard

If you’re finding it hard to get a credit card, there are some things you can do. First, wait for the credit card issuer to tell you why you were denied. They’re required to send an adverse action letter, explaining the reasons for their decision, and to give you access to a free credit report if one was used in making the decision to deny your application.

Check Your Credit Report

Review your credit report to make sure the information in it is accurate. Dispute any inaccuracies with the credit bureaus.


You can get one free credit report per week from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian through December 2023 at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Try a Secured Card

Try getting a secured credit card. When credit card issuers turn down your credit card application, it’s because they view you as a risky borrower. A secured credit card shifts the risk because you have to make a security deposit against the credit limit. The credit card issuer is more likely to approve you because they can use the security deposit if you default.

Once you have a secured credit card, or two, use it as an opportunity to turn your credit history around. Make your payments on time each month, and manage your credit card balance. After several months of timely payments, your credit card issuer may convert your card to an unsecured card. If not, you may have built up a solid enough credit history to qualify on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does the credit card approval process take?

You should know quickly after applying whether your application has been approved or not. Online applications may be approved or denied within minutes.

What credit card has the highest approval rate?

Secured credit cards have the highest likelihood of approval. There are also starter credit cards that are designed specifically for people who struggle to get approved for other types of cards, such as student credit cards for college students.

How long does it take to receive a credit card after approval?

You will probably be able to start using your credit card immediately through online purchases and mobile wallet apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay. You can expect to receive a physical card in the mail within two weeks of approval.

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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. Federal Trade Commission. "Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009," Pages 15-16.

  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "§ 1026.51 Ability to Pay."

  3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "How Do I Get a Copy of My Credit Reports?"

  4. PR Newswire. "Equifax, Experian and TransUnion Extend Free Weekly Credit Reports in the U.S. Through 2023."

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