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Do I qualify for a credit card offer?

By , CardRatings contributor
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Answer: Although this is a broad question, I think I can give you a couple of guidelines to help you decide if you can qualify for a card offer.

The CARD Act of 2009 requires that you need to be at least twenty-one years of age to qualify for a card unless you can prove that you have enough income to pay off your debts. If you're under twenty-one and you lack sufficient income, there are other ways to get a credit card. You can ask your parents to co-sign on a card or to make you an authorized user on one of their cards.

If you're over twenty-one, you need an acceptable credit history. If you have a FICO score of at least 650, you can probably qualify for a card that's targeted at consumers with fair credit. Now, with fair credit, you'll end up with a card with a fairly high APR. But if you don't revolve a balance, it's an opportunity to diligently pay your bills and improve your FICO score so you'll qualify for better offers.

Also since the passage of the Credit CARD Act, the Federal Reserve has required banks to lock in aspects of their credit card offers that can only change if a cardholder misses a payment or otherwise breaches their contract. As a result, American lenders now issue hundreds of distinct credit card offers every year, designed to entice new customers while luring borrowers from their competitors. The CardRatings.com research team reviews the vast majority of these offers, sorting into rankings based on four broad credit categories:

  • Credit cards for excellent credit. If your credit score's 800 or above, prepare for lenders to woo you with some of the very best offers on the market. The CardRatings.com database highlights niche cards for consumers with high credit scores, like the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card and the Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Rewards card.
  • Credit cards for good credit. More than a third of Americans have FICO scores in the 700s, earning access to the popular Chase cards such as Chase Freedom®.
  • Credit cards for bad credit or rebuilding credit. If the sagging economy has taken its toll on your credit, you can rely on the CardRatings.com database to separate ethical subprime credit card issuers from predatory lenders. Even if you have bad credit, you still have credit card options. These cards are targeted to the subprime market, so the APRs are often way too high to consider unless you're certain you won't carry a balance. If you're in a situation where you've been through a rough time and your FICO score is below 650, you can also consider getting a secured credit card so that you can begin rebuiding your credit history and boosting your score.

Another situation that could prevent you from obtaining a credit card (at least one with decent terms) is if you have a recent bankruptcy or other negative information on your credit report. So it's a good idea to check your credit report as well as know your FICO score. Card issuers will look at both your credit report and your credit score when they make a decision about a credit card application.

Credit card deals change weekly, so our researchers and editors work hard to keep the CardRatings.com database updated with the very latest information on finance charges, annual fees and card perks. Likewise, your credit score can fluctuate from month to month based on your relationship with current lenders and on the number of credit card applications you make in a short period of time. Researching offers using CardRatings.com can help prevent the "hard pulls" of your credit report that can reduce your credit score.

If you feel you meet enough of these requirements to apply for a card, you can use our easy, 3-step process to determine which card is best suited to your needs and lifestyle.

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