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Sometimes applying for a credit card can seem like a long series of bad first dates (read: awkward conversations and a nice dose of rejection—ouch). And trust us, finding your dreamboat credit card is tougher than ever.
The average American credit score hovers around 660. In the good ol’ days, a score of 720 was good enough to get you approved for most cards. These days? Not so much. In fact, experts say that now lenders are looking for applicants with scores exceeding 750, and that’s a big difference.
So are you doomed to hear the dreaded “It’s not us, it’s you” speech forever? Relax. Heed these tips and you’ll have better luck next time.
1. Stop Looking Desperate
Avoid applying for multiple credit cards at the same time. Why? Each time you apply, your credit report card is hit with a hard inquiry. Too many hard inquiries in a short period of time can signal to lenders that you’re in need of some credit—right now—which can appear like you’re in a financial crisis. That’s not the first impression you want to make.
2. Play the Game (But Don’t Be a Player)
It’s fine to have a couple of credit cards—most credit advisors will say that two to four cards is perfectly okay and can even help your credit rating (as long as you’re paying your bills on time!). Any more than that and you should consider consolidating you debt. Also, when juggling multiple cards, remember to play the game right. Look closely at how you’re using each card. Your credit utilization ratio (the percentage of your credit line that you’re using in relation to your credit limit) should stay as low as possible. You’ll hear some experts advise keeping your revolving utilization at 30% or less, but nothing magical happens at 30%. The fact is, the lower your revolving utilization, the better – aim for 10% or less and your FICO scores will reward you. So what does that mean exactly? If you have a card with a maximum of $1,000, your balance shouldn’t rise much higher than $100. If you’ve gotten rejected by a lender in the past, take a good look at the utilization ratio of your current credit cards; if it’s too high, work on getting each of those balances down before reapplying for a new credit card.
3. Look for Mr. Right—Not Mr. Right Now
Sure—those sexy credit cards with covetable rewards and sky-high limits can be pretty tempting. Just because something looks good, doesn’t always mean it’s the right option. Be honest with yourself. If your credit score is less-than-stellar or you’re holding a high ratio of debt on multiple cards already, you’re probably not going to qualify for that Black Card you’ve been lusting after. And that’s okay. The best way to get approved for a credit card the first time is to apply for the right card. Sites like CreditSesame.com take into account your credit history and will help guide you toward your best options. Still feeling overwhelmed? Sometimes your best best is to pick up the phone and call. Representatives from the lender should be able to give you a clearer sense of what they are looking for in a candidate for a specific card.
Of course, if your credit score is in need of some serious rehab, these simple tricks may not be enough to lasso your dream credit card (see our tips for improving your credit score), but they’re a smart place to start.