Let’s start with the basics: a credit card provides you with a revolving line of credit, which means you can borrow up to your limit, pay it off, and repeat. Credit cards are issued by financial institutions (like banks and credit unions) and run on one of four payment networks: Visa, American Express, Discover, and Mastercard.
Interest rates for credit cards vary, with the average being ~18% as of October 2022. If you pay your statement balance in full each month by your due date, you will not be charged interest.
Types of credit cards
There are a number of different credit card types you can apply for, these are the three most common:
- Secured credit cards: This is a great beginner credit card because you can qualify without any credit history. Secured credit cards require a security deposit as collateral, which is typically equal to your credit limit.
- Rewards credit cards: These types of credit cards are those that offer the best benefits and rewards like cash back, airline miles, and reward points. To qualify for a rewards card, you’ll need to have good or high credit.
- Retail credit cards: Cards that are issued by a retailer are typically easier to qualify for than a rewards card, which can be good for beginners. Consider a retail card if you shop frequently with the retailer, keep your balance low and pay your balance in full each month.
If you’re ready to apply for a credit card, keep in mind the below:
- Age: Most credit card companies require you to be 21 years old. If you are not, you can become an authorized user on a friend or family member’s account.
- Minimum income: Your credit card issuer will want to know you’ll be able to make the minimum payment, so they’ll ask about your income on the application.
- Debt-to-income ratio: In addition to your income, the credit card issuer will also want to know how your income relates to any other debts you currently have. A debt-to-income ratio below 20% is considered excellent.
The application process
Once you’ve found a credit card you want to apply to, the actual application and underwriting process is pretty quick. Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll get one of three responses: approved, declined or pending. If you are approved, you’ll get your credit card in the mail shortly. If you are declined, you’ll get a notice that details the reason. If your application is pending, the issuer may need more information before a decision can be made.
Healthy credit habits
Now that you have your new credit card, it’s important to use your card responsibly. Here are a few of our tips:
- Pay your bill on time. This will help you avoid late fees, penalties, and damage to your credit score. On-time payments are the single biggest factor when it comes to calculating your credit score.
- Pay your bill in full. If you can’t make the full payment, try to at least pay more than the minimum to avoid paying more later in interest.
- Keep your balance low. Having a credit utilization rate around 30% is recommended.
- Check your online statement regularly to make sure all of your transactions are accurate.
Improving your credit score for the future
If you’ve been denied because your credit score is too low or you are lacking credit history, it’s not the end of the road. This is where Brigit’s Credit Builder comes in. With Credit Builder, we take out a 24-month loan on your behalf and keep the funds in a new deposit account for your benefit. You can contribute as little as $1/month and start building payment history that we’ll report to the three major credit bureaus—and you’ll save money as you go. Learn more here.