6 Credit card application tips to practice before opening your next travel rewards card

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We’ve all stared longingly at the newest offer from the top travel credit cards and imagined the possibilities from earning its welcome bonus. However, there is always the thought of possible rejection. We’ve all been rejected at least once, so don’t fear it!

Too many people overthink the possible “ding” on your credit score, as well. I compare it to getting back into working out after hiatus. You’ll be a tad sore the first few days, but you’re simply becoming stronger over time. The same applies to your credit score when you open a credit card.

Your credit score is made of five components:

  • Payment history
  • Credit utilization
  • Length of credit history
  • New credit
  • Credit mix

Some of these pieces are predicated on eventually applying for new credit lines. While you may be “dinged” at first, your credit score can actually become stronger over time. I’ll give you six credit card application tips to boost your confidence when applying for that next credit card.

Use these credit card application tips and you’ll be on your way to your next adventure in no time. (Photo by Jenny Sturm/Shutterstock)

Application tips to practice before you open your next credit card

Don’t fear the implications of a credit card application on your credit report. If you are being diligent by paying your credit card bills on time and using them responsibly, there’s nothing to worry about.

Here are six things to keep in mind when applying for a new credit card:

Regularly monitor your credit score

Unfortunately, we are living in an age of identity theft and credit card fraud. With large institutions consistently being hacked and our personal information regularly compromised, it is extremely important to diligently check your credit score.

There are plenty of sites where you can regularly check it for free without any penalty to your credit score. If something were to go wrong, your credit score could be destroyed and the possibility of credit cards could be out the window.

Consider ALL income when applying

In the age of side hustles and the gig economy, people are making money in all sorts of ways. Don’t forget to include this when you are stating your yearly income on your credit card application. In regards to Chase specifically, here is everything they consider to be income:

So in this case, my wife and I are able to say that we make six figures because of both of our incomes, side hustles, and the business we run together. It is pretty sensible to say that the more money you make, the higher the chance you have of approval.

Lower credit utilization ratio

First, let me say that revolving credit is the worst thing you can do in the miles & points hobby. Interest rates will more than negate the credit card rewards you collect from spending. If you’re carrying balances, best not to apply for a new card until you’re balance-free.

This is also a good strategy for being approved for new cards. Large credit card balances make banks nervous. A high debt utilization ratio negatively impacts your credit score, so you’ll have less of a chance of being approved. For example, if you have a credit limit of $5,000, it’s much better to be using just $500 of the available credit instead of $4,000.

Consider upcoming expenses

Getting a new card is exciting, but missing the minimum spending to earn a bonus is a huge miss that can rob you of thousands of dollars in travel. If you have large bills coming up (like tuition, a home remodeling, starting a business, or purchasing a car), you may want to consider applying for a card first.

My wife and I were dying to open The Platinum Card® from American Express, but we didn’t have the expenses to meet its minimum spend requirement.  As we were driving to Las Vegas to our nearly free hotel suite at the Elara, we got a call from her brother asking to book $4,000 in flights for him.  We immediately pulled over, applied for her card, and were approved on the spot!

Try ‘reverse engineering’

Reverse engineering is essentially thinking of the end goal first, and then working backward. Every credit card application is precious, so be sure you know which card you want.

Are you dying to travel to the Maldives and stay in an overwater suite? Consider a card like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

The information for the Hilton Surpass has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

This is definitely one of my travel goals – The Conrad Maldives

Are you dreaming of showering 36,000 feet above the ground, drinking Dom Perignon, and then reclining your airplane seat into a spacious bed? Consider grabbing the American Express Platinum Card. You can transfer the points you collect to lots of airlines for an unbelievable First Class experience (like Emirates!).

Or, are you just looking for a way to earn some cash back to continue saving on your purchases? Consider applying for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

Don’t just get a card because someone recommends it. Figure out what your goals are, and find a card that reflects that. For me, my priority is trying to fly in fancy airplane seats as much as possible.  My hotel accommodations aren’t as important to me, even though I have loved earning 500,000+ points from the Hilton Honors credit cards.

Don’t lose hope if you’re declined!

If for some reason you are declined on the spot, don’t lose all hope — there is still a chance you’ll be approved.

Give the card-issuing bank a call. It could be a simple mistake in the application, or they may need extra documentation of something. Joseph was initially declined for the Citi Premier® Card, but called the reconsideration line and was straightaway approved by the customer service rep without having to answer any additional questions. 

Just like anything else in life, kindness can go a long way. Ask why you were denied, and hopefully, you can fill in the gaps to get approved. Unfortunately, the Chase 5/24 rule seems to be a pretty sturdy rule they stick by.

Bottom line

There isn’t a perfect, surefire way to be approved for a credit card. But there are plenty of things you should do before you fill out an application like regularly monitoring your credit score, considering all of your income when applying and not losing hope if you’re initially declined.

What other tips do you have? Let’s hear them in the comments! And subscribe to our newsletter for more credit card tips:

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Meghan Hunter is an editor for Million Mile Secrets. She covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel. Her work has also appeared in The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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