12 steps to increase your chances of approval when you apply for a credit card.
While applying for a new credit card only takes a few minutes online, it does come with certain risks. After you've applied for a card, the credit card issuer will look at your income, credit history and the documents you've provided in your application to determine whether you're a high- or low-risk applicant. Essentially, they're looking for signs that you have the ability to repay the money you borrow.
While making sure you meet the eligibility requirements is crucial, there are some other ways to improve your chances of approval when applying for a new credit card. Use this guide's 12 tips to increase your chances of getting approved for a credit card, including what to do before you apply and submit your application, plus the mistakes to avoid when requesting a new credit card.
How to prepare before you apply for a credit card
What you do before you apply for a credit card is actually more important than the act of filling out the application. While it may take only 15 minutes to complete the online form, getting your affairs in order so that you’re ready for the bank’s assessment of your application will take a bit more time and preparation.
Tip #1. Take your time
It’s never a good idea to rush into things and it is your right as a consumer to assess the bank before it assesses you. Don’t jump at the first credit card deal you see because that’s usually not going to be the right one for you. Instead, spend some time comparing your credit card options and doing your research so you can find a card that suits your financial needs.
Tip #2. Know your needs
There are many types of credit cards that suit different types of cardholders. Before you begin your search, think about what you want, need and can afford with your next credit card. For example, if you're studying and this the first credit card you're applying for, you might want to apply for a student credit card or a low-income credit card to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. On the other hand, if you also want to keep your interest costs down, then you might decide to apply for a low rate credit card.
Even if you already use a credit card, it's worth taking this time to reconsider your goals. For example, if you're a regular spender who regularly repays their balance, you could get rewarded for your spending with a frequent flyer credit card. If you have some big ticket items in mind but want to keep your interest costs low, a 0% purchase rate credit card could come in handy. Otherwise, if you're struggling to repay an existing debt, a balance transfer credit card with a 0% promotional offer could help you get your finances in control. Whatever the case, getting specific about the type of card you want will help you find one that fits with your circumstances.
Tip #3: Compare your options
Once you've decided what type of card you want, it's time to begin comparing your options. You can use the reviews and tables on finder.com.au to compare the following features so that you understand the costs and benefits associated with each card.
- Interest rates on purchases, cash advances and balance transfer
- Annual fees
- Interest-free periods
- Rewards programs including the partnered program, earn rates and how you can earn and redeem points
- Complimentary insurances including travel insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty cover
- Additional cardholders and whether they come with an additional fee
- Extra benefits such as concierge services and airline lounge passes that'll help you offset the costs of the card
Comparing your credit card options will help you narrow down your search and will ensure that you're selecting your next card based on an informed decision.
Tip #4: Check the eligibility requirements
You'll need to meet a set of eligibility requirements to be approved for any credit card you apply for. Make sure you confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria before you submit your application, as rejected credit card applications can have a negative impact on your credit score. In the Australian credit card market, the eligibility requirements usually include:
Credit card eligibility requirements
- Age. Cardholders must be at least 18 years of age.
- Minimum income. You'll need to meet a minimum annual income to apply, which can start at $15,000 p.a. for low-income credit cards and go up to $100,000 p.a. and beyond for higher income products.
- Residential status. Credit card issuers usually require you to be a permanent Australian resident or hold a specific visa to apply for a credit card.
- Good credit history. You'll need to have a good credit history with no defaults or evidence of bankruptcy to receive approval. See this guide for five ways to improve your credit rating.
There are specific eligibility requirements for every credit card, so make sure you know what these are and are confident you have met them before applying.
Tip #5: Check and improve your credit rating
Banks typically use a credit rating system when assessing your eligibility for the card and card limit in question. Based on your credit history, repayment habits and current credit lines, the lender will work out how much you can safely borrow. This information is available to lenders whenever you apply for any form of credit.
Your credit report is also available to you at any time. If you request a free copy of your credit history before you apply for a credit card, you'll be able to correct any possible errors on it and know exactly what the bank will see when they assess your application. If your credit report is less than ideal, it may be wise to delay your credit card application and spend some time improving your credit score to increase your chances of future card approval.
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Tip #6: Lower your credit utilisation ratio
If you already have a credit card balance, it’s wise to pay off your existing balances before submitting a new credit card application. This is because having a high debt utilisation ratio is a poor indication of credit-worthiness and reduces the likelihood of a successful application. To calculate your ratio, divide the total current balances on your cards by their total limits.
How to lower your utilisation ratio
For example, if the limits on your three cards are $5,000 each, and you have $4,000 balance on each of them, your ratio is $12,000/$15,000 = 80%. A healthy ratio is typically 30% or less. If you're struggling to repay your debts because of high-interest rates, consider consolidating your debt with a 0% balance transfer credit card.
Tip #7: Bank with your credit card provider-to-be
Opening a savings account or debit account with the bank you're applying with could help with the application process. Firstly, it will significantly speed up your application, because you’ll become an existing customer. This means the bank will have already verified that you are a legitimate customer before you apply for a credit card.
Secondly, if you have a transaction or savings account with them where your salary is deposited monthly, it proves that you have a paying job and a regular income stream. If you apply online and do it via internet banking, your application becomes even faster because your details could be pre-populated on the forms. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements, being an existing customer can sometimes mean you get approved for a credit card more quickly than other applicants – without the hassle of providing further documentation.
What to remember during the credit card application process
Once you've done some research, found a credit card you like and checked that you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for your chosen credit card. When you're filling out your application, make sure you keep the following tips in mind:
Tip #8: Check your details
You'll be asked to provide a lot of information during your credit card application including addresses, contact numbers, referee details, current and previous employment, salary, outstanding debts and monthly expenses (just to name a few). While it might seem like a lot of information, it's important to fill it out correctly and read over it before submitting the application. Mistakes on your application could slow down the process or result in a declined application. For instance, if you don't include details of an outstanding balance and the bank later finds it on your credit file, they could think you're trying to hide the debt from them and decline your application.
Tip #9: Organise the required documents
As well as eligibility requirements, you'll be required to provide a number of documents with your credit card application. Supporting documents you'll typically be asked for include your driver's licence, proof of residential status, recent payslips and tax return. Make sure you confirm what you need to provide before you start the application to ensure a swift and successful application.
Tip #10: State your actual income
This is no time to be modest or to exaggerate your income. Deflating your income may sabotage your application by reducing the bank’s opinion of your ability to finance a debt. So if you have multiple sources of income (such as from part-time employment, freelance jobs or government payments), make sure to include these details. Fabricating or inflating your income, on the other hand, is considered fraud and punishable by law.
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Mistakes to avoid when applying for a credit card
Aside from the tips to follow before and during your application, the following are common mistakes to avoid if you want to increase your chances of approval.
Tip #11: Don’t apply for multiple cards at once or within a short period
You may be tempted to apply for more than one credit card just in case your first one doesn’t get approved, but don’t. Each credit enquiry that a lender makes about your credit history is listed on your credit file for five years. If you apply for a lot of credit cards at once or within a few months, it could appear to lenders that you have a lot of debt, even if that isn’t true. This could leave you in a vicious cycle of applying for credit cards and not having them approved.
In fact, some banks will automatically reject your application if you’ve recently applied for a credit card. For example, Citi states in its terms and conditions that your application may not be approved if you’ve applied for and been accepted for another Citi offer in the prior nine months. Be aware that this may be the case for other lenders too.
Tip #12: Don’t apply for balance transfers between cards funded by the same bank
Note that you can only transfer the balance of a card that isn’t funded by the same bank as your new card. This can be tricky because it’s not always clear which bank funds what credit card. To ensure you know which banks you can transfer between, see our detailed guide.
Applying for a credit card is a relatively simple process and can take as little as 15 minutes. However, if you don't do your research beforehand, ensure you meet the eligibility requirements and prepare the necessary documents, you'll likely reduce your chances of approval.