Adam's Suggested Credit Card Application Process
In this article, I'll be going over my recommendations on what to do prior to a credit card application.
1. Determine if a credit card is right for you right now.
I go over this question in my article on the subject here. If you're swimming in credit card debt, a new rewards-based card with a high APR is probably going to just make things worse even if it carries with it an appealing sign-up bonus. Even if you're not carrying any balance on any card at the moment, there are still many scenarios where I don't recommend that you apply for a new credit card.
2. Determine what your credit score is.
3. Clean up your credit & lower your utilization at time of your next statement before application if you have >5% utilization on any card or >5% DTI on credit cards.
Get your credit in the best shape possible prior to approval (i.e. pay all balances down to 0 on credit cards right before they report to bureaus within a month of an application and don't pay off any installment loans in full even though paying down an interest bearing balance on an installment loan to almost 0 is positive for credit until it is paid off)
4. Get an expert recommendation.
5. Use your cards with the same issuer that you are applying with if you already have a card with that issuer.
If you haven't used any of your cards with an issuer in a long time, especially some issuers are less likely to issue you new credit cards. Barclays is a prime example. You can use a card plenty and pay the card down to nothing before the statement hits in many cases, and that's what you want.
6. Consider business options.
If you want to be open to business cards (& I recommend it; I have many personal & business cards), there are a plethora of options to have a legit side business if you don't already have a business that you can use. One is Lyft driving another is Airbnb hosting (recommendations) and each has a referral link for me (which may or may not still work) if you go for it.
7. Check your approval odds.
See if your chances to be approved for the cards in question.
1. The best 1st step is to look for preapproval w the bank for that card.
2. If you can't get preapproval, look at the institution's rules for credit cards.
3. Sign up for a free account with Nav.com and then check Nav.com (on a desktop/laptop, not a phone which only provides business chances) for your likelihood of getting your desired business and personal cards in case those cards are listed among possibilities. https://app.nav.com/credit-cards/results/personal
You can also check your odds on Creditkarma for personal cards. It's best to check with a few sources before an application if you can't get preapproval.
4. If your approval odds would be impacted depending on the bureau based on the rules of the institution, to see what credit bureau the institution is likely to pull from, which impacts rules like the volume of recent hard credit inquiries being capped with some banks, go here. (Alternative I like more here)
Amex pulls Experian
Bank of America Pulls Experian in VA & mostly elsewhere
Barclaycard uses Transunion,
Capital One pulls all 3
Chase depends on the state (mostly Equifax 9 in VA)
Citi pulls from Equifax or Experian, though a little from Transunion, in VA.
Discover primarily Equifax but some of the others in VA
US Bank - no info for VA but pulls are diverse, with 2:1:1 Transunion, Experian, Equifax
Wells Fargo pulls Transunion in VA from a small data set of 2 pulls
For personal credit cards, use creditkarma.com also to check your likelihood of approval if the bank typically chooses Transunion or Equifax. If the bank typically uses Experian, go to https://usa.experian.com/member/offers While many cards chances for you once you set up a free account are listed between those, some are not. Forums like Reddit and posts from credit card gurus can also give insights into what it takes.
8. Seek an offer better than that which is publicly available.
Unless you're getting a historic high offer, first call the company to see if you can get an offer not available to the public that is better than what is publicly available. If nothing better is possible, go ahead and apply online or over the phone (if a referral link is available for a particular card I would greatly appreciate you using it, but only if something that is a better offer is not available on the phone)
Apply, ideally spread out by at least 1 month for credit cards and any banks for debit cards that require hard credit inquiry if hard pulls would be coming from the same bureaus.
10. If denied...
11. If your credit limit is too low...
12. Get no hard pull debit cards to fill in gaps.
After applying for 1st credit card, immediately acquire $ back debit cards to fill various niches.
#1 The Cash app debit card can get you far more than the options #2 & #3 in terms of cashback via boosts (i.e. the following at time of publication:
A. 10% off one order of Domino's with a max discount of $10
B. 10% off each order at Cook Out with a minimum order of $1.50, max discount of $7.50 valid 1/24 hrs & expiring in 7 weeks
C. 25% off one online order at GoPuff
D. 10% off each order at Popeyes with a minimum order of $1.50, max discount of $7.50 valid 1/24 hrs & expiring in 7 weeks
E. 10% off each order at Hardees with a minimum order of $1.50, max discount of $7.50 valid 1/24 hrs & expiring in 7 weeks
Other Example discounts:
A. 10% off each order at CVS expirign in 25 days with a minimum order of $1.50, max discount of $50, valid once every hour, & requirement to shop in cash app to redeem.
B. Many retail stores with 5% or 10% off, i.e.
10% off Ray Ban, Sunglass Hut, Oakley, Levi's, or Puma;
5% off Gap, Old Navy, AE, New Balance, Coach Outlet, JC Penney, Macy's, Finish Line, Wayfair, Dick's, Nike, or Kohl's
(using this referral link would be greatly appreciated if you decide to get it and using it would get you & me each $5)
#2 the Langley Federal Credit Union debit card (.$10/transaction although Citi has a credit card that gets a minimum of 10 Thank You points that is better that I have on my list of cards to get eventually)
#3 Discover debit card for 1% cashback up to $3k/month in times when no credit cards are allowed or when a big fee is charged or when purchasing stock from places like Stockpile >$100 to get an immediate buying edge the more you buy under $3k if there is a flat fee and other niche uses.
13. Setup alerts & autopay.
I recommend payments in full automatically from your bank account(s) for credit cards after automatically dividing paychecks so that your fixed expenses (i.e. house payment, student loan payment, insurance payment) go into a separate account(s) within 1 day of your paycheck.
It's also a good idea to set up alerts so that money isn't drained out of your account without you being aware when relying on autopay.
14. Use a free budgeting & credit card management application.
I recommend connecting all of your bank accounts and investment accounts and credit card accounts to mint.com or similar for budgeting, but having the dashboard just showing your flexible monthly spend checking accounts visible. By comparing the difference between what you owe (show only revolving credit card debt on your dashboard) and what is in your flexible spending checking accounts, the difference right before your next paycheck is essentially what to look for instead of your actual checking account which doesn't factor in what you owe.
For managing your points and expiring certificates for free, I recommend https://awardwallet.com/
For power users, there's also a paid option that I have.
15. Keep using cards.
Be sure to use your credit cards at least for 1 small purchase once every few months (or even better is 1/mo).
16. Re-evaluate a month later if sign-up bonus desired is downgraded.
If applying for 2nd and 3rd cards after >1 month and sign up bonus you were hoping for is gone, ask Adam for replacement card
17. Boost learning & resources on cards.
There are many online resources available to boost your learning. Knowledge is power. Beyond this website & some of the referenced websites here, join my travel hacking Facebook group of over 4k at the time of this publication.