How To Apply For Your First Credit Card

Credit cards are a great way to build your credit if you use them responsibly. And fortunately, applying for one is easier than you think, even if it’s your first time. Once you do your research and find out which credit card is best for you, the rest is very straightforward.

You can apply for a credit card online or at the financial institution you already bank with. Since it’s your first credit card, visiting in-person may be easier, but completing the process online or a call can work just as well.

To complete the application, you will need to provide your name, address, phone number, and Social Security number. Depending on the bank or type of credit card, you might need to provide information about your job as well. Although you can still get a credit card if you are unemployed, you will need to give the bank proof of income. 


Qualifying income includes:


  • Student loans
  • Government benefits
  • Investments
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Your partner’s income 


The bank will also likely want to know if you already have an account with them or someplace else and how much you pay every month for housing.

After you complete your application, the card issuer will perform a credit check. If you don’t have any credit history, this process will initiate your record with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Once the card issuer completes your credit check, they will tell you whether or not you are approved. Sometimes, you may need to wait a few days for a letter to arrive in the mail. But you might get an instant notification.

If the bank rejects your application, don’t worry! You still have several options at your disposal. First, get in touch with the card issuer and go over your application and get them to rethink their initial decision. You may find that you made a mistake on your application or forgot to include an eligible revenue source.

If you still don’t receive approval, there are many other credit card issuers and banks that are willing to issue a credit card to first-time applicants. Alternatively, you might consider getting a secured card rather than a regular credit card.

Secured cards have a much higher rate of acceptance compared to other types of cards. As long as you can offer proof of identity, pay the initial deposit, and haven’t declared bankruptcy, you are almost guaranteed to get a secured card.

If the lender does approve your application, you will need to wait a few days before it arrives in the mail. 

Here’s what to do once you get your first credit card:


Activate It

You can activate your card either by calling the number listed on it or online. You must activate your card to use it.

Create An Online Account

After you activate your card, you will need to sign up for online access. Here, you can view previous transactions, statements, rewards, etc. When you do this step, make sure to download the mobile app so you can check for deals from anywhere.

Enable Notifications

Notifications can be annoying, but not when they can help you save money or get the most out of your credit card. Credit card companies typically send email and text messages that alert you when you have a new statement, an upcoming due date, or when you make a big-ticket purchase.

Check Your Credit Score

If your credit card lets you check your credit score for free, make sure you use this benefit. This report will give you key insights that can help you as you develop your credit. Checking your score routinely is an excellent way to make sure you catch small issues before they become a problem. 

Use Your Card

After you activate your card and get everything else ready, it’s ready to use. However, one thing to keep in mind is that credit cards often tempt people to spend more than they should. Because it’s so easy to fall into debt when you have a credit card, consider every transaction as if you were paying in cash. Be aware of your spending and what you’re buying.

The best practice for any credit card is paying your monthly statements on time and in full. This way, you don’t have to deal with interest, and you will improve your credit history at the same time.

Lastly, make sure you always keep your credit card in a safe place and don’t take photos of it where other people can see the details. Thieves can use it to steal your identity, ruin your credit, creating a mountain of problems that can take years to fix. 

If your card is lost or stolen, call your issuer right away. You won’t be on the hook for any fraudulent purchases, but you don’t want to deal with any more issues than you have to. 


  • Steele, Jason. “Applying For A Credit Card The First Time: What To Know – Self.” Self, 11 Apr. 2019,