How to apply for a credit card

May 24, 2015

by — Posted in Guide to Credit Hacking

Congratulations! Now that you’ve hacked your credit score, you’re finally ready to start hacking credit cards themselves.

There are a lot of different factors that have to be taken into account when deciding to apply for a credit card. First:

When should you apply?

There are two reigning schools of thought here.

First, there’s the App-o-Rama school of thought, which teaches that you should apply for a horde of credit cards all at once, so as to not be negatively impacted from the credit inquiry each application will eventually put on your credit score during the application process.

Then there’s the apply-as-you-go method, which generally just recommends opening a credit card whenever you see an exceptionally good deal available for that card. I tend to fall into the second school. I’ll explore this concept in greater depth in the next chapter. Second:

How do I maximize the chance of a successful application?

Well, that’s the big one, isn’t it? There are a lot of things to do here. First, as mentioned before, you should make sure that your credit score is well within the range typically approved for the given card you’re going for. You can generally do this by looking up Credit Karma’s profile page for that given credit card. For instance, for the United MileagePlus Explorer Chase Visa Card (yes, every credit card has a name this long), you’d go here:

And if you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see this chart:

Credit Score Distribution


For this particular card, 70%+ of the applicants have at least a 650 score, so that should probably be about the bare minimum you’d like to try with. You can see that if your score is above 750, you stand an exceptional chance of being approved.

That’s not quite all there is to the application process, however. Different banks tend to draw from different credit bureaus, and so knowing your specific score and credit history with a specific bureau can go a long way in ensuring you’re approved for a card, especially if you’re on the edge of having too low a score.

How do you know which credit bureaus a given bank pulls from? A lot of great ways. MillionMileSecrets outlines a few of them here.

So what should you do if your score is too low with a given bureau? A couple options. Some people go the extra mile and play with putting a credit freeze on that bureau to force the bank to pull from another bureau – I don’t have any personal experience with doing this, and there seems to be very conflicted information its effectiveness. You can read more in a thread here.

A more straightforward approach would be to request a copy of your credit report, and see if there’s anything derogatory on it you can get knocked off, or if you can remove some of your hard inquiries.

If your problem is that you have too many hard inquiries in the past 2 years, one strategy to get rid of them is known as ‘bumpage’. This is a rather taboo topic in the credit card hacking world, and I don’t have personal experience with it, though I do have anecdotal evidence from a friend of mine who tried it with success. Generally, the idea is that you amass a great number of ‘soft pulls’, which are credit pulls that don’t impact your credit score (read more here), and eventually they’ll bump off the ‘hard pulls’ on your credit report, given that there’s a maximum limit to the number of total credit pulls that can be listed on the report.

According to Doctor of Credit here, it appears bumpage might work with Equifax and TransUnion, but not Experian. 85 soft pulls will bump off your hard inquiries with Experian, and 66 soft pulls will bump off hard pulls with TransUnion. Again, do at your own risk and use your own best judgement if you decide to take this route.

More simply, you should always check your credit report to make sure that the hard inquiries listed on your report are indeed accurate. If you see any hard inquiries that you did not authorize, you can contact the bureaus to get them to remove those inquiries. Another strategy to reduce the number of hard inquiries on your report that some people have reported success with is applying for multiple credit cards from the same bank at the same time – if the bureau doesn’t report all the credit pulls as one inquiry automatically, you can contact them and convince them that it was a mistake to have multiple pulls then and have them consolidate the multiple pulls as one pull.

Great. So that’s a quick primer on how to make sure your odds are good enough to apply. Now:

How do I actually apply?

The final step is actually filling out the application. There are some nuances to be very careful of here as well.

1. Follow the right link to the biggest offer available, do research here

2. Take screenshots of everything and read the terms and conditions to prove the offer you received

3. Make sure the address you put is reported on your credit report to minimize the chance of requiring ‘further information’ and to get an instant approval

4. Can really put an arbitrary number for income, as it is used for calculating what credit line to offer you. I’ve almost never been asked for proof of income, and have put completely arbitrary numbers in the past. Generally, unless you’re actually going to be using the credit card, a reasonable number like $40,000-60,000 is more than enough to get you as much credit as you need to get the best card out there (typically $5000+ for a Visa Signature/World MasterCard).

5. Take a screenshot of everything, record the data you put in a credit application, so you can have consistency in applying with the same data for future credit cards again to maximize the chance of getting approved instantly and not needing ‘further information’ or reconsideration.


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