Should I Apply for a Credit Card Online or In-Person?

Should I Apply for a Credit Card Online or In-Person?

October 20, 2020         Written By Tracy Farnsworth

If you have bad credit or have limited credit, you should not let that keep you from applying for credit. If you have no credit history or a poor credit score, using credit properly is one of the best ways to raise your score. Showing that you can make monthly payments that are at or above the minimum payment, pay off what you owe, and properly manage your balance can help prove you are a good risk when it comes to unsecured and secured loans. Some people are not sure the best way to approach a credit card issuer. Do you apply for a credit card online or in-person?

If you are in the market for a new credit card and you are worried about what the bank or store will think of your less-than-perfect credit score, it is normal to think you will have an advantage if you talk to a specialist in-person over the impersonal touch online applications have. You may be wondering if it is better to apply online or go to the financial institution, store, or other agency. The application you fill out online is most likely the same as the application you will fill out in a bank, store, or credit union. If you go in-person to your bank, you will find that most of what the representative does is enter the information you filled out in the credit card application form into the computer and then sends the application off to be reviewed. It usually does not matter, but there may be some circumstances where one way is better than the other.

Featured Prepaid Card

Top Features:

No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card it is a prepaid card.

For many card issuers, online applications are the only option. They want you to apply online. If you find your application is denied online, you can call a representative at that stage and ask them to reconsider, they may be able to complete a manual review of your application. You may have filed bankruptcy years ago due to hardship, but you have been financially responsible ever since. You have a low debt-to-credit ratio and have paid your bills on time for several years. The issuer may look at that and make an exception in your case. Otherwise, you will apply and get your new card without ever speaking to a person, if you are approved.

The Benefits of Applying Online

Applying online always puts the power of research at your fingertips. You can browse different credit card offers, compare rewards programs, and read reviews before you apply. You can look at the APRs and fees to find the best offer for your needs. Narrow down your choices to save time before you read reviews of both the card and company to see what you think.

Online applications may have special perks attached to entice you. Some cards offer sign up bonuses if you spend a certain dollar amount within a set timeframe after getting the card. The bonuses can come in the form of cash back, point rewards or airline miles depending on the card.

Some card issuers offer the opportunity to pre-qualify. Pre-qualification is a soft inquiry on your credit that will not impact your credit score. It does not count against you so take advantage of it if a card you like offers the option. When you actually apply for the card, the processor completes a hard inquiry on your credit report, which does show up in your credit report. While one hard inquiry may not greatly impact your credit score, multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time may. If you have a low credit score, you do not want to negatively affect your credit score by applying to several credit card companies to see who gives you the best offer. Narrow down the cards that best suit you, sort them by order of preference, and go through pre-qualification if it is offered before applying. Note that if you pre-qualify for an offer, your approval is not guaranteed. If you apply for your top option and get approved, do not apply for the other cards in your list if you don’t need to.

Applying online for a credit card can also take off some of the pressure associated with finding out if you are approved or not. If you are nervous about applying in person because you are unsure of whether you will be approved or not, it is probably best to apply online. An online application is quick and easy. You do not have to deal with anyone, and you have an answer in minutes. If you are denied, you are not going to be in a busy office when you get the bad news. Apply online and you are in the privacy of your home where your reaction does not matter.

Benefits of Applying in Person

Is there ever a good reason to fill out an application in-person? In a retail setting, in-person applications are often advantageous if you are planning to use it that day. If you do, you may qualify for additional discounts when you are at the register. Some stores will offer a certain percentage off your total purchase if you apply for and use the new card on a purchase you make at the time you fill out the application. When you apply for a store card in-person, the card number is shared with the retailer for instant use on that purchase. For big-ticket items that you need right now, such as a new refrigerator, you may want the benefit of using it instantly. Even if you have the money saved and ready to spend, you can take advantage of the discount and pay it off when the first statement arrives.

Most of the time you can apply for the store card online. You might even still get the extra discount if they offer it to online applicants. But, there is something else you need to consider. If you apply for that same card online, you may get instant approval but not be able to use it until you have the card in hand. If you are in need of a new appliance now, you may not be able to wait several business days before the physical card arrives and is activated for use. Combine the benefits of immediate use and the potential of additional discounts and it is clear that applying in-person for a retail card can be a better option.

Do Your Research Before You Apply

No matter how you plan to apply for a credit card, do your research. Read up about how credit scores are calculated. For FICO scores, your payment history counts for 35% of your credit score, be sure to pay your bills on time every time. The amounts you owe on your credit lines account for 30% of your FICO score, in general trying to keep your credit utilization below 30% of your available credit is good. In other words, try not to carry a balance of more than 30% of your credit line on any of your accounts. Your length of credit history is 15%, the longer you’ve had your accounts the better. New credit and credit mix each account for 10% on their own. New to credit takes into account any recent lines of credit you may have applied for and received. If you are applying for multiple new forms of credit it can negatively affect your score. Credit mix simply takes into consideration the types of credit you have. Typically having a car loan, mortgage and a credit card is better than having 3 credit cards and no other forms of credit.

Understand the types of credit cards that are out there. You may not qualify for an unsecured card with a low credit score, but you might have no problem getting a secured credit card. With a secured card, you make a security deposit, which becomes your credit limit. That security deposit assures the issuer that if you fail to pay, they will not lose money on your account. They deduct the unpaid charges from your deposit, cancel your account, and refund the remaining deposit, if there is any. As a result, it is much easier to get a secured card when you have poor credit.

Do not apply for a card before you read the fine print. See how payments are calculated, what happens if you can not make a payment, and how to contact customer service if you have questions or need assistance. If you have to call customer service and can not access help online, that may not be ideal for your situation.

As tempting as it might be to apply for the first credit card offer you find, do not rush the process. The first credit card offer you see may not be the best one for you, so do your research before applying for a credit card.

How Should You Apply?

How should you apply for a credit card? Is an online or in-person credit card application better? It comes down to your history and your needs. It is unlikely that a trip to a bank or credit union will help you be approved for a credit card. It can be in your best interest to apply for store credit cards while you are there, but that is the only case where it may be favorable to apply in-person. Otherwise, a bank or credit union representative may be sympathetic to your issues, but they can not force your application to be approved if you do not qualify. It is often better to shop online for a new credit card where you will have the power to compare cards. You can search for a card that has the features you are looking for and when you apply, you’ll most likely get a response within a few minutes.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of October 20, 2020. For up-to-date information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website. Many of the offers on this article are from our affiliate partners, and LowCards.com may be compensated if you take action with any of our affiliate partners.

Review LowCards.com Editor’s Top Cards!

2020 Top Credit Cards by Category
Featured Prepaid Card
NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card
EDITOR RATING
Featured Prepaid Card
NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card

Applying for this card will securely direct you to the issuer's website.

Top Features: No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card it is a prepaid card. 

Featured Secured Card
Assent Platinum 0% Intro Rate Mastercard Secured Credit Card
EDITOR RATING
Featured Secured Card
Assent Platinum 0% Intro Rate Mastercard Secured Credit Card

Applying for this card will securely direct you to the issuer's website.

Top Features: Intro APR Offer on Purchases

Featured Fair Credit Card
Reflex Mastercard® Credit Card
EDITOR RATING
Featured Fair Credit Card
Reflex Mastercard® Credit Card

Applying for this card will securely direct you to the issuer's website.

Top Features: All credit types welcome to apply!

Featured Bad Credit Card
First Digital NextGen Mastercard® Credit Card
EDITOR RATING
Featured Bad Credit Card
First Digital NextGen Mastercard® Credit Card

Applying for this card will securely direct you to the issuer's website.

Top Features: Reports to all three credit bureaus, perfect credit not required for approval


tracy

About Tracy Farnsworth

Tracy Farnsworth went straight from a business track in high school to a full-time job in mortgage banking in Burlington, Vermont. After having children, she built a freelance career in content writing and took online classes as time allowed. She completed Social Media Marketing and Digital Marketing certificate programs with Ireland's online Shaw Academy and completed several courses in SEO and analytics. In her free time, she's the “mom” to a very clingy rat terrier, and the pair walk at least a mile every day. She's also a novice baker who is trying to master the art of sourdough bread.