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Here's who's eligible for a credit card and what factors card issuers consider when you apply

Here are the eligibility requirements and information you need to enter for a credit card application, and what issuers are looking at when they decide to approve or deny.

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Credit card applications can be completed in minutes, but in order to make the process go fast, you'll need to meet certain requirements and provide specific information.

While each card issuer uses their own criteria and formula for determining whether you're approved or denied for a card, the general requirements are similar. Some are even mandated by law, such as the CARD Act of 2009's rulings on age and income requirements for applicants under 21.

Here are the eligibility and application requirements for opening a credit card. Even if you meet or exceed these qualifications, there is no guarantee that the card issuer will approve your application. However, the best time to apply for a card is once you fulfill the requirements below.

Credit card eligibility requirements

Before you can open a credit card, you'll need to meet certain requirements. If you apply at a branch or over the phone, the lender will ask you some basic questions to determine your eligibility. Online applicants, on the other hand, enter eligibility information during the application process. Your application could be rejected if you don't meet these requirements:

  • Age: You need to be at least 18.
  • Income: You'll need to report sufficient income to show you can repay the money a card issuer lends you. Applicants 18 to 21 are required to show proof of income (such as a job) or have a cosigner according to the CARD Act of 2009.
  • Residency or citizenship: Many card issuers require applicants to be a permanent resident or citizen of the U.S, though there are some cards geared toward international applicants.
  • Credit score: Most issuers limit cards to applicants with a credit history — whether it's bad, fair/average, good or excellent. If you have no credit history or are deemed credit invisible, you'll have fewer options, which typically include secured cards.

Information needed to submit an application

Once you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for a card. Here is the common information you typically need to enter on a credit card application:

Personal information

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Country of citizenship

Contact information

  • Address
  • Email address
  • Phone number

Financial information

  • Employment status, such as employed, self-employed, military, retired, unemployed
  • Total annual income, including salary, wages, retirement income, investments, rental properties, alimony and child support
  • Non-taxable annual income, or income that is exempt from federal income taxes, such as social security, public assistance, disability and workers compensation
  • Monthly housing costs, including mortgage and rental payments
  • Bank account information, including whether you have a checking and/or savings account

Additional optional information

  • Authorized user details: If you want to add someone else, like a kid or partner, to your account, you'll need to include their name, date of birth and address. Some issuers may also require their social security number.
  • Balance transfer details: If you're opening a balance transfer card, such as the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, and want to transfer debt upon account opening, you'll have to enter the account number for the card with the debt and the amount you want to transfer.

While the majority of this information is required to complete a credit card application, issuers only base their decision on your creditworthiness, not your personal information. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits financial institutions from considering an applicant's race, religion, national origin, sex, marital status and other personal details during the application process. Lenders will consider other non-personal, financial details, like your credit history, income and monthly housing costs, when determining your creditworthiness.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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