Frequently Asked Questions about CardExplorer and Applying to Credit Cards Online
Q: What is CardExplorer and how are you different than every other credit card site out there?
A: CardExplorer is a credit card search and comparison site that helps consumers find and apply to the right credit cards for them based on their current credit profile, future financial aspirations, and the card features desired, all in one simple and easy to use interface. CardExplorer gives users helpful tools to facilitate the comparison process, such as allowing users to compare credit card offers from major issuers, see the interest cost savings based on their current spending habits and rates, and research topics to stay educated about credit cards and credit in general. Unlike other sites, our utilities allow users to search and compare credit cards by all of the specific features and options desired. Additionally, our calculators and cost simulator tools help consumers see what cost savings each card can yield to help further facilitate the search process.
Q: What information does CardExplorer need to help me find the right credit card?
A: To get started, all you need to do is select what card you are looking for and let our tool narrow down the results for you to only those that match your criteria. With each choice, we’ll filter the card options down further, until you are left with the best credit card options matching the parameters you give us. For example, you can choose a card feature (rewards) and couple that with your credit profile (excellent credit) to see all of the rewards cards that are appropriate for consumers with excellent credit. You could also further narrow the list down by a particular issuer, such as American Express®. The order of filters and number of options you choose can be as detailed or as broad as you like, just let us do the work for you.
Q: What do I do once I’ve found the credit cards I want to apply to?
A: Once you’ve narrowed the list down to the cards you want to apply to, click on the card for a quick view of the offer details, then click on the more details link to see the full terms of the card offer. You can click on Apply Now at any time to go directly to the card issuer and complete your credit card application.
Q: Does CardExplorer charge a fee for its services and tools?
A: No. Our goal is to make the credit card search, comparison, and application process as easy, efficient, useful, and fun for you as possible and our services and tools are available free of charge. We make money from the credit card issuers who pay us for quality applicants that are a good fit for the cards they offer.
Q: Are you a credit card company?
A: No, we do not issue credit. Our goal is to provide you with the tools to help you find the right credit card. With the large number of card offers in the marketplace, we know you need a better way to explore all of the options.
How to Find and Choose the Right Card
Q: How do I apply for a credit card online and what information is required?
A: Once you’ve selected the cards you want to apply to, click on apply now. You’ll be taken directly to the card issuer, where you can fill out and submit your application. Though the application may vary from issuer to issuer, most issuers typically ask for your first and last name, social security number, date of birth, primary contact information (address, phone number, etc.), basic information about your income and employment status, bank account and investment balances, and your status as a renter or homeowner. Once you complete the required information, you can submit your application and wait for a response. The forms are easy to complete and don’t take much time.
Q: Can I apply to multiple credit cards? Should I?
A: Yes, you can apply to multiple credit cards. Whether you should apply to more than one card depends largely on what your credit needs are. If you have good credit and just one credit card, it may make sense to apply to multiple cards to serve different purposes. For example, if you travel often, you could get a travel rewards card along with a good cash back card for every day use. Each situation varies so think about your needs as you explore the options available to you.
Q: I travel a lot, what cards are best for me?
A: If you are a frequent flier with a particular airline, think about getting a card from that airline to maximize your rewards and gain access to special perks like free bags, double miles, priority boarding, and access to airport lounges. You may also want to have a rewards card geared towards hotel stays to earn perks like room upgrades.
Q: I use my credit card every day for all sorts of items, how should I go about finding the right credit card to maximize my rewards?
A: Spend some time categorizing your expenses for the last few months to see where you spend the most money and where you can earn the best rewards. There are rewards cards available that can help you maximize the rewards you earn for spending on certain categories, such as gas, while others offer rewards on virtually every category at varying rates. Depending on your spending habits, it may make sense to have more than one rewards card.
Q: I have a high balance on a credit card with high interest, what can I do?
A: If you’re carrying a high balance on a high interest card, considering transferring the balance to a credit card offering a low (and in some cases zero) APR through an introductory period. These are called balance transfer cards and they typically come with a fee associated with transferring the balance. This fee could be 3%-5% of the amount transferred, with caps on the total fee. Although the amount you owe will be higher due to the fee, the low interest rate during the introductory period can offset the increase and help you pay down the debt faster. Use our balance transfer calculator to find out the costs and benefits given your specific situation.
Q: What types of cards are good for small businesses? What are the benefits?
A: Credit cards geared for small businesses can be great cash management tools for the business owner. They can help the business earn rewards for business travel, cash back for purchases made every day, and cash back and rewards for certain categories of spend, all with no interest if you pay your balance in full. Depending on your business and needs, a charge card with no pre-set spending limit might be the most appropriate choice.
Q: What’s the difference between a secured credit card and a prepaid credit card?
A: Secured credit cards require the consumer to make a cash deposit before the account is opened. Secured cards are great for people who want to rebuild their credit score and establish history. The security deposit gives the credit card issuer security in the case of default or missed payment and makes the approval process easier. A larger deposit will usually lead to a higher credit limit (credit limits are greater than the amount deposited as security). Prepaid cards are different in that the amount deposited represents the entire credit limit. Prepaid cards are good for consumers who have very poor credit or no credit at all. The charges you make are reported to the credit bureaus and reporting agencies, helping you establish good credit history. Cards are also reloadable.
Q: I’m a student and I’m not sure what credit cards I’ll get approved for, what are my options?
A: There are a number of credit cards designed specifically for students and all will require ether a co-signer (such as a parent or guardian) for anyone under 21 or proof that the student has the ability to repay any debt incurred (a job, for example) for the applicant to qualify. A co-signer is someone that assumes joint financial liability for debts incurred and payments due on an account.
Q: I have excellent credit, what types of cards should I think about getting?
A: The cards most popular with people who have excellent credit are those that offer particular rewards that the applicant is interested in and cards that feature low rates (reflecting the lower risk of default exhibited by high credit score cardholders).
Q: I want to build my credit history, what kinds of cards should I consider?
A: Prepaid, Secured, and cards specifically tailored for low credit history applicants are most relevant for consumers who want to build credit history. Credit cards (as opposed to prepaid or secured cards) designed for consumers with little or no credit history typically carry higher interest rates and lower spending limits. As credit is built and payments are made on time, cardholders should check their score to see if there have been improvements and apply to cards that offer higher spending limits and lower APRs.
Q: I have bad credit, are there issuers that will approve me for credit cards other than secured or prepaid cards?
A: Yes, there are issuers who cater to applicants with bad or subprime credit. These cards will usually have higher rates and fees and lower spending limits. Issuers that serve this market niche include First PREMIER® bank, Orchard, and Capital One®.
Q: Who are the best credit card issuers?
A: This varies based on what type of card you are looking for, but if you’re interested in finding out who the leading card issuers are based on customer feedback, read our article on Best Credit Cards Based On Your Feedback.
Q: I’m a parent and want to start teaching my teens how to be responsible with credit, what should I do?
A: A great tool parents can use to teach their teens about financial responsibility is a prepaid card, where the amount that can be spent is capped by the sum of money pre-loaded on the card. Prepaid cards can help teens get accustomed to using non-cash currency while affording parents full control and insight into where money is spent.
Credit Card Basics
Q: Do I need a bank account to get approved for a card?
A: No, you do not necessarily need a bank account but do need to show the ability to repay debt (proof of income) and you will not need a bank account if you are obtaining a prepaid or preloaded card.
Q: What is a credit score and what is the definition of excellent, good, fair/average, subprime and bad credit?
A: A credit score ranges from 350 to 850 and indicates a consumer’s credit worthiness. Factors that affect the score include, among other things, payment history, number and age of open credit accounts, and utilization rate of credit available. Though each lender’s definitions of excellent, good, fair and average credit may vary, a helpful guideline is set forth below:
- Excellent Credit: 750+
- Good Credit: 660-750
- Fair Credit: 620-660
- Bad Credit: 350-620
- The terms subprime and prime are generally used to refer to which band of credit you fall into. Credit scores below 660 are considered subprime and scores above 660 are prime.
Q: Are applications I submit online safe?
A: Yes. Applications are encrypted using SSL technology, offering the highest level and sophistication of security on the web.
Q: How quickly can I get approved for a credit card once I apply?
A: Approval times vary by issuer and card offer. Some cards offer instant approval while others could take several days or weeks. The better your credit, the easier the decision is for the card issuer and in most cases, the faster the approval process. Once you are approved, notification will be sent through various methods of contact, including any or all of the following: Phone, mail, email.
Q: What’s the difference between a charge card and a credit card?
A: A charge card is a line of credit, like a credit card, that requires the cardholder to pay off the balance in full each month. Unlike credit cards, there is no interest charged since all debt and purchases are paid off at the end of each month. Unlike charge cards, credit cards extend credit or borrowing ability that can be repaid or “financed” over a length of time. The cost of borrowing for credit cards is expressed as the annual percentage rate.
Q: What are the advantages of carrying multiple credit cards? Do I need more than one?
A: There are multiple advantages to having more than one credit card, including, positive affects on your credit score as you have more borrowing ability against the debt you are carrying as well as increased ability to use cards selectively on certain categories of spend to earn rewards. You don’t necessarily need more than one card, but having credit cards that use different payment networks can help diversify your wallet and ensure that you will have a credit card that is accepted by more merchants in more locations. For example, some merchants may not take American Express® but may take Visa® or MasterCard®.
Q: What are these blank checks I get from my credit card company? How do I use them?
A: These checks, often called convenience checks, are very similar to cash advances. You can use the check to pay for goods and services and the balance is added to what you owe on your credit card. Because these checks are similar to cash advances, they may carry finances charges, higher rates, or additional fees for using the check so read the terms carefully to know what additional charges you may incur by using these checks instead of your credit card or cash.
Q: Can I exceed my credit limit? Will I get charged for it?
A: Yes, you can exceed your credit limit but you will need to explicitly opt-in with your credit card issuer. If you do not opt-in, charges that put you over the credit limit will not be authorized. If you do opt-in, over-the-limit fees and charges may apply when you surpass your credit limit.
Q: What are rewards cards?
A: Rewards cards give you points, cash back, and other rewards for using your credit card to pay for goods and services. Points you accumulate can be redeemed for goods, services, upgrades on travel, and other perks.
Q: What is a balance transfer? When would I need to use one?
A: A balance transfer is when you transfer a balance held at one credit card to another. Balance transfers are most useful when you are carrying a high balance on a credit card that also has a higher rate than what you might be able to find with another card. Depending on the amount of debt you are carrying, the amount of minimum payments you are willing and able to make, your current rate, and the terms of the credit card where you will be transferring the balance to, a balance transfer may save you money on interest and could help speed up the time it will take to pay off your balance. Most balance transfer cards will offer introductory periods where the rate is very low, or even zero. Use our balance transfer calculator to see how a balance transfer card could work for your particular situation. Remember, there are fees for transferring a balance so read the terms and conditions before deciding what’s right for you.
Q: Will I get charged interest if I pay off my balance in full each month?
A: In most cases, no, there will be no finance charge if you pay off your balance in full for purchases made in that billing cycle.
Q: How is my minimum payment calculated?
A: A Minimum payment is the lowest amount you are required to pay at each billing cycle. Cardholders can always pay in excess of the minimum payment to reduce their balance and reduce the interest they will pay over the life of the balance. The minimum payment is usually calculated as a percentage of the new balance total at each month, with certain minimums. Read the terms of your credit card agreement for the full details and use our minimum payment calculator to find out how much interest you will pay if you make only your minimum payments.
Q: How do cash back cards work?
A: Cash back cards are rewards cards that allow you to earn points when you purchase goods and pay for services using your card. These points are redeemable for cash back on your credit card.
Q: I have high credit card debt, how do I think about the fastest way to pay this down?
A: The best way to minimize the interest charges on your credit card debt and to pay down your balance is to pay more than your minimum payment. Additionally, depending on your credit score and the APR on your card, and using lower APR cards or transferring your balance to a card that offers low rates through an introductory period may make sense.
Q: Where’s the security code on my credit card?
A: On a Visa®, MasterCard®, or Discover® card, the security code is found on the back of your credit card in the signature box and is 3 digits long. Though there may be other digits or letters, the last three digits are what make up the security code, also sometimes called the CVV2 code. On an American Express® card, the security code is a 4 digit number found on the front of the card, above your card number.
Q: How do I dispute a credit card charge? Do I have to keep paying the amounts due, including the disputed amount?
A: The Fair Credit Billing Act governs how charges can be resolved and disputed. If you see a charge that was not authorized by you, was a double charge, was a charge for goods and services you did not accept, or see general billing errors, you should dispute the charges with the credit card issuer directly. The best way to arrive at resolution is to write a letter to the address provided by your credit card for billing inquiries. The letter should be sent by certified mail and you should keep copies of all materials sent for your records. The Issuer is required to resolve the matter within two billing cycles from receiving your letter. The form of the letter should include the date, your name, address, account number, a description of the issues, copies of statements, and any proof supporting your claim that charges were incorrect. You should continue paying your bill for charges that are not disputed and can withhold payment for the amounts disputed until the matter under investigation is resolved.
Q: Why do some cards have annual fees or membership fees?
A: Annual fees and membership fees can range from $25 to as much as $475 depending on the issuer and type of card. Examples of cards with annual fees include charge cards, where the issuer does not earn interest income as balances are paid off in full each month. Credit cards that offer cardholders perks and complimentary services such as entry into lounges at airports, concierge services, upgrades, etc. may also charge an annual fee.
Q: Should I sign the back of my credit card?
A: Reviews here are mixed. Signing the back of the card indicates that the cardholder has agreed to the terms and conditions of the credit card issuer. In today’s world of point of sale swiping, the cardholder and the merchant interact less and less with each other with respect to the physical exchange of the card so signing the back becomes less significant to the transaction. That said, we believe it is a good idea to write “ask for ID” on the signature box on the back of the card as added protection in the event a card is lost or stolen.
Q: What is an introductory rate?
A: An introductory rate is an interest rate the card issuer will charge through an introductory period (or promotional) period.
Q: I just lost my credit card, what do I do?
A: If you lose your credit card, you should call your credit card company immediately. You can find the number on their website or on your billing statement. When you call the issuer, you need to be prepared with some basic information. Tell them when you believe the card was lost or stolen, where you were at that time, and be prepared to review the most recent charges posted to your account. The card issuer will be happy to close that account and issue you a new card.
Q: What happens if I miss my monthly payment?
A: Missing a monthly payment or being late on the payment will result in increases to your rate. These rate increases are usually significant, jumping as much as 10% or more when you miss a payment. New card regulations require statements to be delivered 21 days before a payment is due on the account so be proactive in managing your payments and due dates.
Q: What are foreign transaction fees?
A: Foreign transaction fees are charges that apply when you use your card abroad. These fees typically relate to currency exchange. Visa®, MasterCard®, and American Express® are broadly accepted worldwide but if you don’t have one of these cards and are traveling in a foreign country, check the terms of your agreement to make sure you understand what charges will apply.
Q: What is an APR?
A: APR stands for annual percentage rate and is the cost of borrowing money, expressed as an annual interest rate. Many different forms of APR apply to your credit card account so read your agreement to understand how your rates will change under various scenarios. A fixed APR is one that does not change for a determined set of time, while a variable APR changes according to an indexed rate that is outside the issuer’s control. Additionally, there are APRs that apply when you do a balance transfer, a cash advance, during an introductory period, or when you miss a payment (penalty APRs).
Q: What is a cash advance? How do I get a cash advance? What charges will apply?
A: A cash advance is when you borrow cash against your credit limit on a credit card instead of using the card to purchase goods or services. Cash advances can be done at an ATM machine, through checks issued by the credit card company, or by request on the phone. Cash advances will typically have a different rate than standard purchases and will cause other fees to be levied on your account since issuers view cash advances as higher risk lending.
Q: If I overpaid for a balance, can I get the money back? How?
A: If you pay more than you owe, your credit account will show a negative balance. This can be applied to other purchases you make on the account. In the event you do not make other purchases to offset the negative balance or intend on closing the account, you can call the issuer directly and ask for payment, which will typically arrive via a check in the mail.
Q: How do I add authorized users to my card?
A: An authorized user is someone you designate as having permission to use your credit card, without burdening that user with the financial or legal responsibility for paying the bills. Call your credit card company to add authorized users.
Q: Why do I need a co-signer for a credit card?
A: A co-signer can be required in various situations. For example, if you are underage (less than 21 and can’t show the ability to repay debt) or if you have poor or no credit and have someone with good credit who is willing to assume financial responsibility for paying debt accumulated on a credit card. A co-signer provides credit card issuers insurance against default and assurance that the risk of the account is lower.
Q: Can I use my store credit card just like a regular credit card?
A: If your store credit card has a logo from one of the payment networks (for example, American Express®, Visa®, MasterCard®, or Discover®), you can use it anywhere that these payment networks are accepted. If not, the card may be a charge card that is only good for use at the retail outlet that issued it.
Q: Why is my credit limit low? How can I increase it?
A: Credit limits are determined by several factors, including how much other debt you have, your income, and your credit history. A low limit indicates that one of these determining factors is at a level lower than what is desired by the card issuer. The best way to work towards a credit limit increase is to pay down other debt, use your card more often and show the ability to pay off the balance, and even getting another card to show that your aggregate borrowing limit has increased. Lenders and credit card issuers are constantly assessing the risk they take on by making money available to you and weigh your balance-to-limit ratio (a ratio of how much you owe to how much you can borrow) in the risk assessment. Managing this metric is important on both a card-by-card basis and in aggregate across all revolving lines of credit available to you.
Q: I got a pre-approved offer in the mail, what does that mean? What should I do?
A: A pre-approved offer in the mail means that the card issuer will most likely approve you for that particular credit card unless there has been a major change in your credit from the time they made their assessment to when you complete and submit your application. You can complete your application in the form provided in the mail, online, or by phone. You should compare the offer you received in the mail against other offers in the marketplace to ensure that you are getting the bet terms available before you apply.
General Credit Questions
Q: How are credit scores maintained and by who?
A: Credit scores are maintained by credit bureaus and credit reporting agencies that house credit records on both consumers and businesses. These reports are the main source of information used by lenders to determine the credit worthiness of a borrower and include information on what loans you have outstanding, your payment history, and other important information such as how much borrowing capacity is available to you through all your open lines of credit. Experian, Equifax, and Transunion are the three major reporting agencies in the US.
Q: Will cancelling a credit card I don’t use hurt my credit score? Will the card issuer close my account if I don’t?
A: Be careful when thinking about cancelling credit cards you don’t use, as this will cause your total borrowing availability to decrease, while the amount you have outstanding on all other accounts remains unchanged. For example, if you have 5 credit cards, each with $100 credit limits and you use 4 of them regularly with an average balance of $30 on each card. That means you have $500 in total borrowing available, and $120 in balance for a balance-to-limit ratio of 26%. If you close the one card you don’t use, you will still have a $130 balance, but only $400 in credit available, for a ratio of 33%. To a lender, it may look like your credit is more risky after closing the account, which could hurt your credit score. If you don’t use your card, the card issuer may close your account for you, but this is relatively rare. You may want to insure against this by using all your cards periodically, even if the use is relatively infrequent.
Q: I’ve seen incorrect entries on my credit history, how do I clean errors on my record?
A: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs how personal information and files in your credit history are maintained by the credit bureaus for accuracy and fairness. If you see errors in your credit report, you have the right to remedy the situation under the rules set forth by the FCRA. To see if there are errors in your credit report, you can obtain and review a free credit report once per year through annualcreditreport.com. If you want more frequent reviews, you can sign up to a credit monitoring service. Under the FCRA, both the reporting agency (the credit bureaus) and the information providers (the suppliers of information to the bureaus, such as credit card issuers) are responsible for fixing errors. To clean errors on your record, follow the steps below:
- Write a letter to the reporting company and describe what items you think are inaccurate. Provide copies of all support documents and send the letter via certified mail to keep a record of the correspondence. Your letter should include your name, address, and contact information.
- Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question and are required to forward all findings to the company that provided them the information. After the supplier of information receives the dispute, they must investigate the items and if the information was incorrect, they will notify the reporting companies.
- When the investigation is concluded, the reporting companies must give you the results in writing and a copy of your credit report if changes were made as a result of the dispute.
- Notify the information provider in writing regarding your dispute. Provide copies of all support documents you send.
Q: What is identity theft? How does it happen and what can I do?
A: Identity theft is a term used to describe when an unauthorized person steals your personal, credit card, banking or other financial information. Identity theft can happen if you share your personal information with an unauthorized source. This can happen if you lose statements and documents containing sensitive information. Identity theft can also happen if you unknowingly provide information to someone who claims to be a representative of a financial institution (for example, you receive an email stating you’ve won money and they require banking information to send it to you). Though less common, security breaches at companies that hold your credit card information can also lead to Identity Theft. To protect yourself, never give out personal information to a source you can’t identify and keep a watchful eye on all of your credit accounts to identify unauthorized charges. Notify your creditors immediately if you see an unauthorized charge.
Q: Will my credit score improve if I use my card to its full limit? Will my credit score decline if I pay off all my balances?
A: Managing your balance is important to maintaining a good credit score. Using your credit cards to their full limit will not help your credit score and will negatively affect your balance-to-limit ratio. Paying down balances is always a good idea but you want to balance debt pay down with usage. Creditors want to see that you can responsibly borrow and repay debt and that the risk of default is low. Your credit score is an indication of credit worthiness and maxed out credit cards does not give creditors confidence that you are a credit worthy.
Q: What is a credit monitoring service?
A: A credit monitoring service is a service you can use to regularly view your credit report and be alerted when there are new entries. Credit monitoring is useful if you are rebuilding your credit, establishing credit history, or want to keep an eye on all activity relating to your credit more than once per year. Credit monitoring services typically charge a monthly fee for their services and offer free trials for new customers.
Q: Why did I get declined for a credit card application?
A: There could be several reasons why you were declined for a credit card. The most common reasons include mistakes on the application, mistakes in your credit report, poor credit score, financial issues such as low income, and just a plain mismatch of your credit profile to the specific card you applied for. Below is a list of what you can do to address each of these issues:
- Mistakes on the application: Check your application to make sure your social security number, employment and income information, address, etc. were properly completed. Incorrect social security numbers and income information errors could be a cause for decline so if there were mistakes, correct them and reapply.
- Mistakes in your credit report: Check your most recent credit report and see if there are negative items in the report that are erroneous. If there are mistakes, you are entitled to have credit information providers and reporting agencies investigate and fix errors. To start the process, write a letter and provide documentation supporting disputed items (see above for full steps).
- Poor credit score: If your score is too low for the card you applied for check your credit report to see if there are errors that are negatively affecting your score. Fixing errors in your credit report could help raise your score and make you more attractive to issuers. If there are no issues with your credit history, but you’ve had late payments, bankruptcy or other issues, consider applying for a card that more closely matches your credit profile. You can get a card with a lower limit, a prepaid card, or a secured card and work to improve your score by making timely payments and ensuring that the newest history shows your credit worthiness. Check your credit score after some time and reapply once it has improved.
- Financial issues: If you just got a raise, changed jobs, or have better income, you might need to show some history at the new income level to show that your ability to repay debt has improved.
- Mismatch of credit profile to card you applied for: Browse cards by credit type to see what credit cards are more closely matched to your credit profile and apply to those. It may take some time, but establishing good credit history with some cards designed specifically for someone with your credit profile can go a long way to improving your credit score and making it easier to apply for more premium cards.
Have other questions? We would be happy to answer them for you and add it to the FAQs. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our experts will get back to you. Also, don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to get important updates on the latest credit card offers. If you have questions about certain definitions, visit our glossary.