Before you apply for a new credit card, it helps tremendously to know your actual FICO score -- or at least get an estimate of it. If you don't have a credit card at all, websites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame will let you view an estimate of your credit score for free. While the "free scores" you get through these sites are only estimates, they can give you a good idea of where you stand.
Some credit cards also offer their cardholders a free look at their FICO score on their monthly statements. If you have a credit card already, you can check to see if your card offers this benefit.
Knowing your credit score or an estimate of it is one thing -- but you also need to know what your score means and whether it's high enough to qualify you for a credit card. We recently looked at what constitutes a good credit score, and, according to credit expert John Ulzheimer, here's how credit score ranges tend to stack up from top to bottom:
- A credit score of 760 or higher is considered excellent credit.
- A score between 701 and 759 is considered good credit.
- A score of 651 to 700 is considered fair credit (695 is the national average).
- Under 650 is considered poor credit.
The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to get approved for a credit card. So is your score high enough? Various studies have indicated over the years that only 39.1% of all applicants were approved for general-purpose credit cards. However, 58.7% of Americans with "prime" credit scores -- those in the 660 to 720 range -- were approved, and 85.5% of applicants with "superprime" credit scores (720 or above) were approved.
There are other variables that may determine whether you're ultimately approved for a credit card or denied, but once you know your credit score, you'll have a better sense of your chances. And if your scores are on the lower end of that spectrum, you'll know it's time to make some changes -- paying down balances and paying bills on time -- to get those numbers moving in the right direction before applying for a credit card.