How Can I Apply for A Credit Card?

For first-timers and existing users, the credit card application process can become confusing. What are some online and in person ways to apply for a credit card? What documents do I need? And is there an application fee?

These questions are important when you're looking for a credit card. Learning more about the process can help you start strong when using a card and keep you from defaulting on your payments in the future. Let's take a look at how you begin the credit card application process.

Steps to apply for a credit card

To apply for a credit card, you should first familiarize yourself with the application process. The credit card application process breaks down into a few basic steps:

1. Check your credit score

Credit scores calculate the likelihood that you'll pay back loans based on a number that factors in your current debts, your past debts, and payment history for both past and present loans.

Different credit cards will have different minimum credit score requirements to receive approval. Some credit cards, such as secured credit cards, may not even require a minimal credit score at all.

It's a good idea to know your credit score before you apply for any new credit cards. You can view your FICO® score, updated monthly, for free with select Citi cards.

2. Decide what credit card should you apply for

Once you know your credit score, you can find the right card for you based on their credit score requirements. You can sort credit cards into two main types:

  • Secured Cards: These cards require a low credit score. Sometimes they may not even need one. However, they will require a security deposit, and they may also offer lower credit limits, meaning you can't spend as much with an unsecured card.
  • Unsecured Rewards Cards: These credit cards require a moderate to high credit score, and some may charge annual membership fees. Depending on the rewards card, you could receive points, miles, or cash back. You can view the rewards cards available from Citi here.

3. See if you are pre-approved

Credit card pre-approval is a type of e-mail and snail mail promotion by card issuers to help find potential cardholders. While pre-approval marketing tries to find customers who easily qualify for the card's minimum requirements, a pre-approval doesn't necessarily mean you'll be approved for a card when you file an application. Keep this in mind when looking at card pre-approvals.

4. Learn the Requirements to Apply for a Credit Card

After you've decided what card you'll use, you'll need to gather all the necessary documents for your credit card. These will be standard documents, such as:

  • Financial documentation: While some banks may not ask for proof of income, it is a good idea to have these documents on hand, even if you only need to report a gross income on your application.
  • I.D. verification: You will need a social security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) both to verify your identity and protect you from fraud.
  • Proof of age: Often you will need a second form of identification both for security and for age requirements. The minimal age for cardholders is eighteen, so make sure your I.D. is up to date if you're a younger applicant.

5. Understand the terms on your credit card application

Every credit card application will state the standard terms and conditions for using the card. Make sure to understand these terms—especially the interest rates, repayment terms, and default conditions—before you go ahead with the application. You don't want to use your card for six months to find a surprise change to your interest rate.

Where can you apply for a credit card?

Now that you've found the right credit card and gathered all of your important documentation, you'll need to find the right way to file your application.

Ways to apply for a credit card

There is no right destination to file a credit card application, but let's look at some of the basic options:


Applying for a credit card online may be the quickest way to file an application. You can apply for a Citi credit card online today.


You can apply for a Citi credit card over the phone by calling our consumer line 1-800-347-4934. This option gives you the speed of an online application with the added benefit of easier access to customer service representatives.

In person

You can easily go to your nearest Citi branch and apply for a credit card in person.

Compare your credit card offers

Once you've received approval through a credit card application, you may wonder if there are credit card deals that may better suit your financial needs.

Searching online for good credit card deals or looking at your pre-approval offers is the best way to compare credit cards. Doing your research on what offer is best will also save you time and financial security in the long run.

Is It Safe to Apply for A Credit Card Online?

Online credit card applications may seem to carry the potential for fraud and security breaches, but with added developments in data privacy, information security remains consistent regardless of how a cardholder applies for approval.

When applying for a credit card online, make sure to find the issuer's correct website. Additionally, log onto the website from a private wi-fi network and use HTTPS encryption if possible. You may also want to see if the issuer uses two-factor authentication to make your data even more secure.

With these precautions, applying for a card online is comparably safe to apply in person or through the telephone. Not only that, but an online application may go through the approval process faster.

Does Applying for Credit Cards Hurt Credit?

While a credit card company does perform a "hard inquiry" on your credit file, a single inquiry will not do much damage to your score. However, it may be a different case if your application is denied.

What if your application is denied?

Denial for a credit card application does not need to be a major cause for concern. But it's important to understand why you were denied before you reapply, as each hard inquiry by a card issuer can hurt your credit even more.

Reassess your credit score and loan history. Should you be applying for a secured card instead of an unsecured card? Should you find an alternative way to build up your credit, such as paying off your current debts or card balances?

Each situation will turn out differently, but keep in mind that if you're denied for multiple cards, it may be time to rethink your financial strategy.

Apply for a Credit Card with Citi

As a bank with history and expertise, Citi provides a number of services that can suit your financial needs. Compare the many credit card offerings from Citi and apply for a credit card today.

Disclosure: This article is for educational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and is not a substitute for professional advice. It does not indicate the availability of any Citi product or service. For advice about your specific circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.

Additional Resources

Utilize these resources to help you assess your current finances & plan for the future.

Learn how FICO® Scores are determined, why they matter and more.

Review financial terms & definitions to help you better understand credit & finances.