Before you apply for a credit card, it’s a good idea to review your credit and identify opportunities for improvement. That’s because a better credit score can get you lower interest rates, higher credit limits, and access to better cards.
Whether you’re applying for your first credit card or your fifth, you should take some time to get your credit ready. Here are six things you can do to get your credit ready for a credit card application
1. Know Where Your Credit Stands
Before you apply for a credit card, you should know where your credit stands. If you have excellent credit, you will be able to shop around for a premium card. On the other hand, you may want to look at options like secured credit cards if your credit is in poor shape.
Your credit score can change depending on the scoring model used, and different lenders may use different tools. But a credit score simulator can help you get an idea of where you stand and the types of credit cards available to you. You should also pull your credit reports to identify any potential issues to fix; obtaining a three bureau credit report from IdentityIQ is a great place to start.
2. Review Your Credit Reports
Once you pull your credit reports, you should review them for negative items that hurt your credit score, such as late payments, unpaid debts, and bankruptcies. You may not be able to do anything about legitimate information (beyond waiting for it to fall off your report), but you can do something about negative items that are a result of fraud or error.
3. Dispute False Information
If there are negative items on your credit report that you don’t recognize – such as accounts you never opened or debts you don’t owe – you may be a victim of clerical error or identity theft. You should dispute false items with the credit bureaus and have them removed from your report. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you’ll also need to alert the credit bureaus and even the police.
Disputing items on your credit report takes time, so you may want to delay your credit card application until you can get false information removed.
4. Pay Down Other Credit Card Debts
One of the factors that affects your credit score is your credit utilization, or the amount of available credit you have tied up in debt. If the balances on your current credit cards are too high, it raises your credit utilization rate and hurts your credit score. Make an effort to pay down other credit card debts; it will help you improve your credit score and make it easier for you to manage a new credit card.
5. Make Your Payments on Time
According to Experian, payment history is the single biggest contributor to your credit score, accounting for 35% of your score. Late payments on your credit report can drag down your score. When you’re planning to apply for a credit card, you should be extra careful to make all your payments on time and in full.
6. Choose One Card
When you do submit an application, the credit card company will initiate a hard inquiry into your credit. Too many hard inquiries at once can damage your credit score and make you appear desperate for credit. When you’re ready to apply, do your homework and choose one card that’s right for you. Don’t apply for several cards in a short period of time.