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Why was my credit card application denied?

By Kristin WongKristin Wong

Ever had your credit card application denied? No one likes rejection, but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of being approved.

It helps to know how credit card companies decide whether to approve potential customers.

"They're going to take a look at how you've handled credit in the past. How you've made your monthly payments. How much debt have you gotten yourself into and how much new credit have you applied for," says Justine Orantes, a credit counselor at ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions.

They're also taking a look at what your income may be. With that in mind, let's say you do get denied. What went wrong?

There are a few things it could be. Maybe you simply made a mistake on the application. Maybe your credit report has an error. It could be that you're recently unemployed, or your income is too low. Of course, a bad credit history will also affect your approval. And even if your credit history looks good, if you're applying for a lot of credit all at once, a bank may suspect you're having financial problems.

If you are denied credit, what should you do?

Step one:  Check your credit report for errors. You can get one free copy of your credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus by going to

"It's recommended that you review your credit report on at least an annual basis to make sure that everything is correct on your credit report," says Orantes.

If an error isn't to blame, you probably need to work on your credit. "Take a look at your credit report," says Orantes. "If there's a delinquency, what was that delinquency? How long ago was it? Has it been resolved? If it hasn't' been resolved then go ahead and take a look at how to go about resolving it."

Are you missing payment due dates now? "If you're having difficulties, it's always recommended you reach out to your lender or your creditor and have them explore options with you so that you are current," says Orantes.

You may need to reevaluate your credit usage. A good rule of thumb is to keep your credit card balances below one-third of your total available credit. That's the sum of all your credit limits.

If you were denied over an income issue, you might have to wait to apply for credit until you find employment, or your income increases.

When you're ready to apply for a card again, do your homework. Give the issuer a call. Ask what their approval guidelines are for that particular card. Do they have a minimum income requirement? What credit score are they looking for?

Finally, take care when filling out the application.

"Always make sure you print clearly on the applications," says Orantes. "Have the banker or whoever gave you the application review it and make sure you filled in everything and you're not missing any information."

With a little research, and maybe some credit repair, you'll do well to be approved the next time around. 

Kristin Wong, 


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