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6 Things to Avoid Before Applying For a Credit Card

Learn how to use your credit card wisely is very important for your credit score. Here are some common mistakes people make that decrease their score and may impair their chances to get a new credit card

You can trust the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Our opinions are our own.

Depending on how you use it, a credit card can give you convenience or a curse.  It could help manage your finances, get out debt faster, or earn you some nice rewards.

A credit card is a wonderful financial invention.  It provides the holder with superb purchasing power, unequaled convenience, and security – bundled in a small piece of plastic. The obvious advice is to use your credit card with extreme care to keep yourself free from sizeable financial problems and protect your financial security from coming apart. Credit card issuers make an amount of credit available for the holder to borrow from time to time.

Credit cardholders, on the other hand, must comply with the terms of the credit card agreement.  This normally calls for paying your credit card bills on time, keeping within your credit limit, and not using your cards to purchase illegal items or use it for fraud.

Of course, you need to repay the purchases you make on the credit card but the card issuer gives you some options on how to repay the balance. In case you want to pay your balance over a period of time, you must meet the minimum monthly amount that becomes due on a specific date each month.

Otherwise, you will incur penalties for paying late.  Additionally, the card companies will collect interest on the balance if you spread out your payment over time. Any time you talk of financial matters, your credit score becomes a significant factor. However, most consumers do not bother to learn how to use their credit card wisely.

And, there are a few traps you should try to avoid.  To help you keep away from them, here are some common mistakes people make that may impair their chances to get a new credit card.

Is getting a credit card easy?

Like any type of finance, getting a credit card will be easy if you have good credit. Most lenders will still look at your debt to income ratio and other factors before providing approval, but if you have good to excellent credit, it should be relatively straightforward.

However, if you have poor credit, you may find the process a little more challenging. You may need to look for credit card companies that specialize in less than perfect credit. This is likely to mean that you will pay a higher interest rate on balances and there may be fewer membership perks, such as cash back or points.

1. Apply For a Lot Of Credit Cards or Loans

Why it’s bad: So, you’re shopping around for the best card for you and want to know which issuer will give you approval.

Well, we say think it over before filing your application left and right.  An analysis of new credit will take up 10 percent of your score and if there are multiple credit inquiries under your name, it will pull your score down.

You should be wary about sending out too many credit card applications because it may send out a couple of wrong messages. First, the lender might think that you filed with a throng of issuers and they denied your application for some reason.

Or, that you got a card from several issuers which means that you are desperately in need of credit – which is a sign of a big financial problem. Every time you apply for credit, the prospective lender will generate a hard inquiry to see if you are creditworthy.

This inquiry goes into your credit report and every hard inquiry that you get drags down your score.  It may be minor, usually three to five points, but it might make the difference between getting a good score and a bad one.

When you pay on time with a new card, you cancel the damage.  But take note that if you apply simultaneously for several cards, lenders will consider this as a risky behavior.

What we really want to say is, apply for new cards strategically.  In case a lender rejects you, find out why before you attempt to try again with a new lender. Be reasonable – a mediocre credit score getting a high-end credit card is just wishful thinking. You should settle for the card that fits your credit standing or otherwise try to improve your credit to qualify for the card that you’re aiming for.

2. High Credit Utilization

Why it’s bad:  When you add a line of credit, you automatically decrease your ratio.

If you already have one or more credit cards with outstanding balances, you can help improve your credit score by adding a new card.

Your credit utilization ratio accounts for 30% of your FICO score.  This is the proportion of the total amount you owe compared to the credit that’s available for you.  To keep your utilization ratio from increasing, you should try to keep your balances low. Here’s the thing:  once you pass the 30% mark, your scores will plunge dramatically.

This chart created with Experian data shows that those with an average to good credit score have an average credit utilization ratio of the optimum 33%. This ratio drops significantly for those with very good and excellent scores.

At the other end of the scale, the chart shows that those with poor credit scores typically have a very high credit utilization ratio, with an average of 73%. This will be a massive factor in lending decisions for those in this group.

Average Credit Utilization Ratio by Score

3. Not Payoff  Your Credit in Full

Why it’s bad:  Doing this may cause the card issuer to give you a penalty APR which will burden you with considerable cost in additional interest.

You should be aware that the majority of credit cards come with a maximum credit limit.

This is the highest amount that you can spend without incurring any penalty.  Your card issuer does not expect you to use up your credit limit to the last cent.

When you max out your credit card, it usually shows you are using credit higher than the amount you are paying off.  This situation normally ends up with you making some late payments.

Keep in mind that the card issuer will use the maximum interest they can charge you and they can reach up to 29.99%.

If you max out your credit card, you open the doors to a lot of negative repercussions.

Here are some of the significant negative results:

  • Your credit score will go down.  We’re not talking about a few measly points here – we’re looking at a 30% drop based on the actual amount of your available credit that you are using.  So, the higher you utilize your credit limit, the more your credit score will suffer.
  • Your issuer can charge you a penalty APR.  Although the penalty may not come automatically as soon as you max out your card, there’s a big chance that it will.  Most card companies will wait until you are in default for over 60 days before they impose the penalty APR.
  • You can’t use your card anymore.  Obviously, when you max out your credit card, you will no longer have an available credit limit to use and therefore won’t be able to make purchases.  This can put you in a tight spot if you’re depending on your card for your day-to-day purchases and have not prepared for this situation.

Avoid Maxing Out Your Card

Here are some things you can do to stop yourself from maxing out your card:

  • Build an emergency fund.  Set aside a specific sum in a different saving account and use it only for emergencies.  When you have an emergency account, you won’t have to rely exclusively on your credit card when you have an emergency.
  • Use your card only for necessities.  If it’s taking you long to build an emergency fund, discipline yourself to use your credit card only in case of true exigencies and purchase only the necessities.
  • Pay off your card purchases as soon as you can.  This is a good habit to develop:  pay off your credit card as soon as you make a purchase.  Don’t wait for the statement to come – make your payment even before the cut-off date.

4. Don’t Miss Payments

Why it’s bad:  Missing payments or just continuing to build up your credit card balance adversely affects your credit report and your credit scores as well.

Banks and lenders are not usually fond of borrowers with a high amount of credit card debt.

In the financial realm, every decision will have a material effect on your credit score.

Your credit is score is very important because should you experience a downside to your financial situation, your score could save you financially.

A credit card cash advance may seem inviting and convenient in case of an emergency when you need cash real fast.  What is important is to realize that cash advances cost a lot – higher interest rates plus additional fees.  This can jack up your outstanding balance faster and make it harder for you to keep up with your monthly payments. In addition, card issuers normally look at people who take out a high amount of cash advances as probable candidates for default.

What you can do is avoid making a cash advance altogether and try instead to get a small loan from your local financial institutions.

Carrying credit card debt can significantly compromise your financial health. Unfortunately, many consumers do have credit card debt. In this chart compiled with 2020 Nilsen data, we can see that over time consumer debt has increased from $3.8 trillion in 1991 to $16.10 trillion in 2019.

However, the percentage of credit card debt remains relatively stable. It has only increased from 6.9% to 7.3% in the same time period. Of course, the amount of credit cards has increased, but as the percentage has remained fairly stable, it suggests that consumers are relying on other types of finance to manage their debt.

US Credit Card Debt as a Percent of Household Debt

5. Cancel Other Cards

Why it’s bad:  When you cancel accounts in good standing with other companies, you effectively shorten your length of credit history on your report and it’s worth 15% of your score.

You will also reduce your total available credit, which would likely increase your debt utilization ratio in case you have high outstanding balances on other credit cards.

Many people often close out the cards they no longer use to lessen the number of cards in their wallet.  What they don’t realize is that it can pull down their credit score.

Your debt utilization ratio goes up when you close your inactive accounts.

A simple trick is to make a small purchase using the card you don’t use much and then pay it off immediately.

This little activity could be enough to register in the card issuer’s system to keep them from automatically closing your account and damaging your credit score.

But if the card that you don’t use often charges you an annual fee or you really want to simplify your card holdings, go on and close it.  Just remember to time it well – it’s not wise to close several cards at the same time.

6. Mortgage Payments

Why it’s bad:  It’s really very simple.  You’re already paying interest on your mortgage, so why would you want to pay additional interest on it through your credit card?

It’s a very expensive option that you should avoid.  If you use your card this way, you would also increase your credit utilization rate which could, in turn, lower your credit score.

It’s just unwise to do this for the entire term of your mortgage which typically is from 15 to 30 years, depending on your contract.

Most of the time, this is not a viable option.  This is because mortgage companies don’t encourage borrowers to pay their mortgage through credit cards.

In reality, there will be a third-party company who will have to act as a go-between to allow you to pay the mortgage installments through your card.

However, that will cause you to pay much more because these third-party services cost an arm and a leg. In the event that you are able to pay your mortgage with your high limit credit card, you’ll be paying a higher interest rate at the end of each month.

Things could become chaotic if you fail to pay down your entire account balance at any time.

If ever you find a legitimate way to pay your mortgage with your credit card, it’s still not a good decision if you’re not planning to pay off your total credit card balance every month.

When consolidating credit card debt with a mortgage, you’ll end up with a credit card bill for the whole term of the mortgage and we’re talking about years.

In case you find it difficult to pay your mortgage installment for one particular month, try to get a grace period from your lender.  You can also try other loan options such as a personal loan or refinance your house.

Applying For a Credit Card – FAQ

  • Why was I not approved for a credit card?

There may be a number of reasons why your credit card application was declined. Common reasons include:

  1. High Debt Balances: If your existing loans and credit cards have high balances, you will have a high debt utilization ratio, which makes lenders reluctant to approve more credit. Aim to keep the balances on your existing accounts at 30% of the credit limits or less to improve your chances of approval.
  2. Multiple Inquiries: If you’ve submitted numerous applications for credit cards and loans, it is a red flag to potential lenders.
  3. Recent Delinquencies: If you recently missed a payment on a loan or other bill, it will reduce your chances of approval.
  4. Limited Credit History: This can be a catch 22, but if you have no credit experience, it can be difficult to get credit. You may need to search for a student or secured credit card, which is likely to have more relaxed requirements.
  • What is the minimum salary to get a credit card?

There is no set minimum salary requirement to get approval for a credit card application. The income requirements vary by credit card providers and from card to card. Additionally, your salary is just one factor that the lender will consider when assessing your application. So, don’t get too hung up on your salary and instead focus on building good credit.

  • Can I apply for a credit card after rejection?

While it is possible to apply for another credit card after an application has been rejected, it is not necessarily a good idea. The first application will have triggered a hard pull to be recorded on your credit file and this will be seen by the provider on your next application.

Generally, lenders are hesitant to approve applications when there have been multiple credit inquiries in a short period. So, try to keep applications to a minimum and research your options, so you only apply for credit cards that you have a good chance of getting approval for.

Final Words

There is no other financial strategy that could prepare you for a safe future other than avoiding the debt trap totally.  Sadly, many people put their financial situation at risk by racking up credit card debts left and right.

If you have the discipline to use your credit cards wisely, you can benefit a lot from them.  It can take time but it helps you build your credit and get some protection for online purchases.

It’s also very convenient when you need to purchase high ticket items because you won’t have to carry all that cash.  But when you’re careless with them, they can end up as usurious loans rather than what they should be: a useful substitute for cash.

And when your credit card debt builds up, it will become extremely challenging.

Try not to get to this point by using your card conscientiously and only for emergencies.  Remember to buy with the credit card only the things you can afford to pay in cash.  Pay your credit card bills when they become due.

What we’re saying is, credit cards can be highly advantageous for you to build up your credit.  They show to your future lenders that you are a responsible and creditworthy borrower.

But always remember that having a credit card is a big responsibility and one that you must take unconditionally with all sincerity.