Ask The Money Manual: Why Do My Credit Card Applications Keep Getting Rejected?

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In this weekly column, we answer readers’ pressing financial questions. No question, big or small, is off limits. Ask away by emailing us at This week, we attempt to tackle why some people might get denied for a credit card.

Question: I’m a recent college graduate and I’m working in the tech industry in San Francisco, CA. I want to get a credit card so I can start benefiting from all the rewards that having a credit card offers. But every time I apply for one, I get rejected. My job pays well and I’ve only been late on paying back my student loans once, so I don’t understand what’s the problem. Got any advice? Thanks, Craving Credit in SF.

The Money Manual Answer: Hey Craving Credit in SF! I know exactly where you are coming from: It took me ages to get myself a good credit card that rewarded me with miles and cashback. The first thing you need to do to understand why you are having trouble qualifying for a rewards credit card like the ones offered by American Express or Mastercard is to check your credit score.  The best way to do that is through Credit Sesame which will send you your credit score completely for free.

Why Your Credit Score Matters

Your credit score is the number one factor that determines if you will qualify for your credit card of choice.  While I have no doubt that you are a trustworthy and responsible person, your credit score works differently than a judge of character. A credit score is made up of five different things:

  1. 35% Payment history
  2. 30% The amount of debt you have compared to your available credit
  3. 15% The age of your accounts
  4. 10% The number of new applications for credit
  5. 10% Your mix of credit items from student loans, personal loans, credit cards, auto loans, etc.

Given what you have told me, your payment history and the age of your accounts are probably the largest factors causing your credit card rejections. Even if you were late in paying back your student loans just once, when you don’t have much of a credit history, that one late payment leaves a big impact on your credit score.

A good option to keep on track of your credit score is to sign up for free credit monitoring. While most companies will charge a high fee to frequently send you your credit report, Credit Sesame grades and sends your score completely for free. You can even see if there are any negative marks on your credit report.

How To Boost Your Credit Score

People without much of a credit history should apply for a basic secured credit card. Secured credit cards require a cash deposit, have relatively high fees, low credit limits, and don’t offer many–if any–rewards. But thankfully, after six to twelve months of responsibly using the secured card, you will have enough credit history to apply for a more rewarding, unsecured card.  And Credit Sesame is there for the entire journey, from advising you on your first secured credit card to evaluating the best options for the next cards you apply for.

Besides getting a secured credit card, there are many other things you can to do to improve your credit score. You should keep your balance low on your secured card, make all of your payments on time, and try and diversify your credit portfolio. If you are renting an apartment in San Francisco, then paying your rent and utility bill on time are two other forms of credit that will help.

Another way to improve your credit score and also boost your savings is to sign up for Self Lender, a credit building service that helps its members improve their credit score and increase their savings.  Rather than jump through the hoops of getting a secured card, Self Lender gives you an FDIC insured CD savings account to make monthly payments into.

By making consistent payments into your CD account you are able to build up a strong credit history, which is one of the most important factors in having a good credit score.  By the end of your CD account (either 12 or 24 months) you will have a guaranteed increase in your credit score.

Final Thoughts

Everyone can have a good credit score, it doesn’t matter how much money you make. And if you are really interested in boosting your credit score, we would recommend you sign up for Credit Sesame. It won’t cost you a dime and the company has a strong track record of improving its clients’ credit scores.

Hope this helped and if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at and we will do our best to tackle your question, or find an expert than can find you an answer.

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