Check Your Credit Scores Before Applying for a Credit Card


If you’re currently shopping for a new shiny piece of plastic to use in place of cash or debit, you should know where you stand in the credit score department first.

After all, a credit card issuer will pull your credit report and credit score immediately after you submit your credit card application to determine, you guessed it, your creditworthiness.

And if your credit score isn’t up to snuff, you’ll likely be declined. Sounds like a huge waste of time, right?

Well, while being declined for that credit card you wanted isn’t the end of the world, it’ll definitely count against you.

How Do Credit Card Applications Affect Your Score?

When you apply for a credit card, a credit inquiry, or application for credit, will appear and remain on your credit report for two years .  This is the case for any new line of credit you apply for, not just credit cards.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, seeing that anyone who applies for credit will be hit with an inquiry, but too many credit inquiries can certainly hurt your credit score.

And assuming you are rejected by the credit card issuer, it will lead to an unnecessary credit score hit.

Unnecessary because you didn’t actually get anything out of the deal, just a big fat “NO.” However, there is a silver lining – the credit card issuer should send you a copy of the credit report they used to determine your eligibility in the mail after the fact, once it’s too late.

As a result of the inquiry, your credit score may fall a few points or more because you’ve essentially expressed to other creditors that you “need” credit, which makes you appear as a riskier borrower, at least in the short term.

Therefore, the next time you apply for a credit card, which could be shortly after applying for the first one, you’ll go into it as a higher-risk applicant.

So it’s important to apply for a credit card that you can actually get approved for the first time around. Otherwise you’re jeopardizing subsequent requests for credit.

Check Your Credit Scores for Free

Fortunately, there are a number of services that allow you to check all 3 credit scores free of charge during a trial period.  And no, it won’t hurt your score.

If you choose the right company, you’ll be able to see your credit scores from the major credit bureaus, including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, all at once, free of charge.

You get your scores instantly so you can quickly determine if applying for that new credit card makes sense or if it may be out of reach (just be sure to cancel during the trial period to avoid charges).

Generally, credit scores of 760 and above mean you’ll get the green light for just about any credit card, while scores around 700 and higher should be a “go” for most cash back and balance transfer credit cards.

Credit scores below 640 will likely shut you out, though you may still get approved depending on other variables.

[What credit score do you need to get a credit card?]

It’s worth noting that credit score alone isn’t the only reason you may be approved or declined for a new credit card.

Other factors, such as your income and employment history, can come into play as well. So even those with lower credit scores may get approved while more creditworthy applicants get denied.

Tip: You should also check your credit scores long before applying for any other type of loan, including an auto loan/lease or a mortgage. And even insurance.

A good credit score could land you a much lower interest rate, which may save you thousands of dollars over time!

By Colin Robertson

Colin created this blog after spending several years in a job that required him to scour credit reports on a daily basis. His goal is to help individuals better understand their credit and get the most out of credit cards.

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