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Guide to Checking Your Credit Card Approval Odds

By Jennifer Calonia · November 17, 2022 · 9 minute read

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Guide to Checking Your Credit Card Approval Odds

Figuring out whether you will get approved for a credit card is seemingly simpler now with credit card approval odds calculators. These tools can offer guidance, highlighting credit cards with high approval odds in your favor. However, they are not always reliable.

Still, learning how to leverage the approval odds information that these tools provide can be helpful. You can use the insights to make yourself a more desirable borrower for credit card companies, thus increasing your future approval odds.

What Are Credit Card Approval Odds?

Credit card approval odds inform you of the likelihood that you’d get approved for a particular credit card. How these approval odds are determined, including which details are assessed, can vary between services and card issuers.

For example, a credit card approval odds calculator might suggest that, based on your credit score and income, you have an 80% chance of getting approved for a credit card. It might also offer you a few credit cards with high approval odds to explore.

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Checking Your Credit Card Approval Odds

Using a credit card approval odds calculator offers a glimpse of your approval chances, but not a promise. That’s because a credit card company or credit card marketplace can’t provide a 100% assurance of your approval without going through a formal underwriting process.

Underwriting is the step where a lender or issuer evaluates your credit portfolio and application details (like existing debt and income) to calculate whether it would be a risk to loan credit to you. Since this process can only happen after an application is submitted, a tool that states you have high approval odds doesn’t mean your eventual approval is guaranteed.

Prequalifying for a Credit Card Approval

There are a couple of ways to obtain a pre-screened credit card to gauge your approval odds: Receiving a pre-qualification offer or requesting a pre-qualification from a credit card issuer.

Using a Prescreened Offer

Based on your general information from the credit bureaus, card issuers might send you an unsolicited prescreened offer stating that you might be qualified for its credit card.

At this step in the process, the card company has only looked at limited markers, like whether you’ve met its minimum credit score requirement. It hasn’t performed a hard credit check, nor evaluated your existing debt or income to base an approval on. However, if you receive a pre-qualification offer, this can be a positive sign that your approval odds are better than if you hadn’t received it.

Checking the Card Issuer’s Website

You don’t always have to cross your fingers in hopes that a card issuer will give you a prescreened offer. Some credit card issuers offer a pre-screening form that you can fill out to see if you’re pre-qualified for its card. If your preferred card doesn’t let you request a pre-qualification, you might find more insight on the issuer’s website about what’s required for approval.

While you’re on the card issuer’s site, it’s helpful to review its response timelines so you can track your pre-qualification or application progress. This includes the timeline for an application decision, as well as how long it takes to get a credit card if you’re approved.

What To Do if You Prequalify

If you prequalify for a credit card, you can choose to submit an application. Doing so will require a hard credit inquiry before a decision is made, which can temporarily have an effect on your credit score.

Additionally, you can continue shopping around for different cards to see if another product offers a lower interest rate or better incentives.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

What To Do if You Don’t Prequalify

If you don’t pre-qualify for a credit card, you can proceed in a few ways:

•   Hold off on getting a new card. Too many hard credit inquiries might flag you as a high-risk borrower who’s reliant on credit. If you’ve recently had multiple inquiries on your credit, consider waiting a couple of months before re-applying for a new card.

•   Work on your credit score. All card issuers look at your credit score to see if it meets its minimum requirement. A higher credit score is a positive indicator that you’re a responsible borrower.

•   Apply for a secured credit card. A secured credit card is a credit-building card in which you deposit money or collateral in a certain amount. This amount acts as your credit limit.

•   Appeal the decision. If you applied for a credit card and were denied, the issuer must legally inform you of the reason for the denial. If you can provide more information that might sway the issuer in your favor, you can ask them to reexamine your application.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Tips for Improving the Likelihood of Approval

Whether you’re getting a credit card for the first time or adding a new card to your rotation, there are a few steps you can take to improve your approval odds.

Reviewing Your Credit Report

Your credit report gives credit card issuers a comprehensive view of your borrowing habits to date. Since it’s a highly scrutinized factor when approving applications, review your credit report before submitting an application.

Check that all accounts, their statuses, and the amounts are accurate. If you spot an account that looks outdated or incorrect, reach out to the credit bureaus immediately to dispute it.

Taking a Look at Your Credit Score

In addition to ensuring your credit report is accurate, evaluate where your credit score stands today. Credit scores are the most common credit card requirements that influence your approval odds. For instance, if a card issuer explicitly states that its minimum credit score required is 720, but your score is 650, your credit card approval odds might be low.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

Minimizing Your Debt

Keep your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio as low as possible. Credit issuers use this ratio as a way to determine whether you can afford to pay back potential purchases made on the card. The ratio is based on your aggregate monthly debt amounts divided by your gross monthly income.

Stating All of Your Income

As mentioned above, your income is one of multiple factors used to determine your credit card approval odds. A higher income can reduce your DTI ratio, making you a less risky customer to extend credit to.

You can include various types of income sources on your application. This might include your salary from your full-time job, earnings from a side gig, Social Security benefit payouts, and alimony.

Managing Payment History and Credit Utilization

Staying on top of your existing loan and credit card payments keeps your credit score healthy. This means paying at least the minimum amount due, and making those payments on time every month.

Additionally, be aware of how much of your total credit limit you’re using, compared to how much credit you have access to. This ratio is called your credit utilization ratio. There’s no golden credit utilization ratio to keep in mind, according to FICO, but the lower it is, the better.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

Comparing Cards Carefully

With so many credit card products on the market, choosing a credit card that suits your borrowing needs and qualifications can help you find the right card.

Ensure you’re comparing credit cards with the same credit card features between different cards to accurately determine their pros and cons. Some considerations to make when comparing credit cards include:

•   APRs. The annual percentage rate, or APR, is how much you’ll pay in interest if you carry a balance on the card. The lower the interest rate, the better.

•   Balance transfer costs. Some issuers offer a zero-interest balance transfer promotion for a limited period, while others don’t. Similarly, some credit cards charge an additional balance transfer fee.

•   Penalty APRs. If your account becomes delinquent, some card issuers impose a higher penalty APR on your existing balances and future transactions. Make sure you understand how a credit card works and which rules apply.

•   Fees. Certain cards charge an annual fee just for the privilege of carrying the card. This fee is in addition to interest charges you might pay for rolling over a balance, month over month.

•   Rewards program. If you’re after credit card rewards, compare the details of each card’s program. For example, look at whether rewards points or miles are tiered or offered for specific categories, or if there’s a flat rewards rate for all purchases.

•   Incentives. You might encounter special promotions, like a welcome bonus or promotional 0% APR. These added perks should factor into your decision.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card?

The Takeaway

Although a credit card approval odds calculator or tool can offer broad guidance about whether you’ll be approved, it doesn’t replace a card issuer’s underwriting criteria. The credit card company relies on its own underwriting team to ultimately decide whether your application is approved. This decision is based on the specific information on your application and your creditworthiness.

If you’re ready to explore a cash-back rewards card, the SoFi Credit Card offers rewards at a generous rate. For a limited time, new credit card holders† who also sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings with direct deposit can start earning 3% cash back rewards on all eligible credit card purchases for 365 days*. Offer ends 12/31/23.

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Does getting rejected for a credit card hurt my credit?

A credit card pre-approval rejection doesn’t hurt your credit since pre-approvals typically involve a soft credit check. However, if you move forward with a credit card application that involves a hard credit inquiry, your credit score might temporarily drop, regardless of whether you were approved or denied.

Are credit card approval odds accurate?

Generally, credit card approval odds calculators offer guidance toward credit cards with good approval odds. However, they don’t provide a 100% guarantee that you’ll be approved. There have been reported cases of tools claiming that a consumer has high approval odds with a card, only to get denied upon applying. The card issuer is the only entity that can accurately say whether you’re approved for a credit card.

How can I improve my credit card approval odds?

The best way to get good approval odds for credit cards is to minimize high-risk borrowing practices. One way to achieve this is by improving your credit score. Keep your credit balances low, make timely monthly payments, maintain long-standing credit accounts, and avoid opening multiple new lines of credit in a short period.

How do you guarantee credit card approval?

There’s no way to absolutely guarantee credit card approval to any particular card. Card issuers base their decisions on a number of factors, like your credit history, credit score, income, credit utilization, debt-to-income ratio, and more.

Photo credit: iStock/akinbostanci

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