Are you missing out on valuable miles and points cards by making this application mistake?

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for.

Besides your credit score, the income you report to a bank is one of the most important factors used to evaluate your credit card application. Many think of income as paychecks from an employer or earnings from a small business.  But you might have other qualifying income without realizing it.

Understanding how to report your income correctly can open up the miles and points game to a lot more people. Whether you’re a student who doesn’t make a lot of money or you stay at home while your partner works or any other myriad of reasons you think you may not qualify for the best travel credit cards, this is the post for you! This info is also helpful if you’re trying to get multiple cards with the same bank.

I’ll let you know what to enter as income for credit card applications at different banks — and why it’s important!

Help yourself earn valuable welcome bonuses with miles and points credit cards by calculating and reporting your total income correctly! Then enjoy travel to destinations like Los Cabos, Mexico. (Photo by karamysh/Shutterstock)

Why you want to report the highest income possible

The income you report on a credit card application is important for approval. It also helps determine your credit limit. Banks are unlikely to extend large credit limits to customers whose income can’t support repaying the balance.

That spending limit can also impact your credit score. 30% of your credit score is determined by your outstanding balances and credit utilization. For example, if you have one credit card with a $4,000 spending limit and you make $1,000 in purchases each month, your credit utilization is 25%. Get it?

If the bank gives you a $10,000 spending limit, however, that $1,000 in purchases, your credit utilization would be ~10%. And using less of your available credit can help boost your credit score!

Having a higher credit limit with certain banks can also come in handy when you apply for additional cards because some card issuers will shift the credit line from an existing card to a new one. Even if the bank doesn’t offer to do this, it’s a good bargaining chip. If your application is denied, you can call reconsideration and offer to subtract a few thousand dollars from one of your current cards and place it on the card you’re interested in. Note that this only works if you’ve already got credit cards issued by that particular bank.

What counts as income for credit card applications?

The income you report on your credit card application is not the same as what you might show on your tax return. So even if you’re a student or stay-at-home partner who doesn’t get a traditional paycheck from an employer, you still might have eligible income to enter on your credit card application.

I’ll show you what counts as income. Just remember to be honest on your credit card application. It’s better to tell the truth and be denied than go through a financial review with a bank.

Let’s look at what you can include as income with four of the most popular rewards cards.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The application for The Platinum Card® from American Express says you can include these as income:

  • Wages
  • Retirement income
  • Investments
  • Rental properties
  • Alimony
  • Social Security
  • Child support
  • Public assistance
  • Disability
  • Workers compensation
  • Military allowances

As you can see, there are a ton of potential things that can add to your income — it doesn’t just have to be what you get from your job.

The card comes with 100,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases with the card in the first six months of account opening. We estimate Amex points value to be 1.8 cents each, giving you an estimated value of $1,800 in travel. The best way to use Amex points is by transferring them to valuable travel partners like Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Singapore Airlines, Hilton, and tons more.

Book a lie-flat business class flight by transferring your points to Emirates — and gain access to their onboard bar! (Photo by Nick Ellis.)

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card application says income can include:

  • Wages from full-time, part-time, or seasonal jobs
  • Self-employment income
  • Interest or dividends from investments
  • Retirement
  • Public assistance
  • Shared income from somebody else that is regularly deposited into your individual account or into a joint account
  • Income from others you use to regularly pay your bills if you’re 21 or older

The last part about shared income can be extremely helpful for stay-at-home partners. You can enter your partner’s income in the credit card application. And if your partner already has the card, you can apply separately to earn the welcome bonus for yourself!

MMS readers love this card because it earns Capital One miles which are probably the easiest-to-redeem rewards in the free travel world. Read our post on the best ways to use Capital One miles for all the juiciest secrets.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card application mentions examples of income you can include, such as:

  • Salaries
  • Investments
  • Social Security benefits
  • Retirement
  • Income from others you use to regularly pay your bills if you’re 21 or older
  • Child support or alimony

If you’re a college student still getting help from your parents, you can enter the allowance or financial assistance you get in the income field.

This card is the best credit card card for beginners in the miles and points hobby, as it has great ongoing travel insurance and earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Similar to Capital One miles, it’s very easy to use Chase points — but their potential for savings is much, much higher.

The card currently comes with 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. We estimate Chase points value to be 1.7 cents each, making this bonus worth an average of $750 in travel. Read our post on the best ways to use Chase points to see the true power of the miles and points hobby.

Citi Premier® Card

The Citi Premier® Card application says you can include these items in the total income field:

  • Salary and wages
  • Interest and dividends
  • Rental income
  • Retirement benefits
  • Income from others you use to regularly pay your bills if you’re 21 or older
  • Child support or alimony

Citi also allows for income from those who support you to be counted as income for the purpose of its credit card applications.

This card comes with a bonus of 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. We value Citi ThankYou points the same as Chase points, at 1.7 cents each. That means this bonus should give you an average value of $1,020 towards travel.

The Citi Premier’s rewards program is the most effortless way to get you and the family to Hawaii for just 15,000 Turkish miles and $11.20 per person round-trip in coach. (Photo by Francois Seuret/Shutterstock.)

The best use of Citi points is to transfer them to Turkish Airlines and fly to Hawaii for as little as 15,000 points round-trip in coach, or 25,000 points round-trip in business class. Read our post about how to use Turkish Airlines miles for all those details — it’s so easy!

Bottom line

The total income you report on your credit card application can be an important factor in receiving approval and the amount of your credit limit. Most banks allow you to include income beyond traditional salaries and wages. You can include things like:

  • Investment income from stocks and rental properties
  • Social security
  • Retirement benefits
  • Military allowances
  • Income from others you use to regularly pay your bills if you’re 21 or older

The big difference-maker here, though, is that you can enter shared income from a partner. This tremendously helps those who stay at home to be approved for popular miles & points credit cards. Similarly, including allowances from parents can help students who don’t yet have an income.

Just be sure to tell the truth in your application. If you’re including income from non-traditional sources, be prepared to explain to the bank, so you can increase your chances of approval! And subscribe to our newsletter for more credit card information posts like this delivered to your inbox once per day.

Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

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! :)

Join the Discussion!

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments