At a Glance
In 2009 after the Great Recession, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act was introduced to protect consumers, stating a card issuer cannot open a credit account or increase a credit limit for a consumer unless they consider the ability of the consumer to make the required payments.
In other words, credit card companies must make sure cardholders can afford to pay off their balances, or at least make minimum payments, or they cannot accept a credit card application. Therefore, your income is a large consideration for credit issuers and helps credit card companies determine your credit line and whether you can make payments.
However, it doesn’t state a minimum income requirement. This is up to credit card issuers to determine.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What is the minimum annual income for a credit card
- Credit card income requirements for students
- Why is income considered in credit card applications
- What is considered income for credit cards
- How can you calculate your income while applying for a card
- How do credit card companies verify your income
What is the minimum annual income for a credit card?
Technically, there is no minimum annual income requirement for a credit card. Credit card issuers determine this themselves, and unfortunately, they can vary and typically aren’t published since income is only one of many factors to measure financial well-being.
For example, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card says a cardholder’s monthly income can’t exceed their monthly rent/mortgage payment by at least $425.
The minimum income requirement for a credit card depends on factors like:
- The credit card
- Your income
- Your credit score
- Other open lines of credit and loan balances
- Debt payment amounts
This information is also used to calculate your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which is all of your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. This is typically a better measure than just your income because even if you have a high income you could still be rejected for a card if you have too much debt.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends having a DTI below 43%, though other experts suggest keeping it below 36%.
Additionally, some credit cards have a minimum credit limit requirement. If your income prohibits you from qualifying for a high enough credit limit, your application can be rejected.
Credit card income requirements for students
Student credit cards can be a great way for younger consumers to build credit. Credit card companies have different requirements for showing income as a student, but in most cases, it largely depends on your age.
For example, if you’re between the ages of 18 and 20, you’ll likely need to show proof of earning income independently or have a parent or guardian who can guarantee payment in the event you cannot. You must show income that’s yours, like personal income from a job, scholarships, or grants.
If you’re older than 21, you likely have to apply for a credit card by yourself (with no co-signer). Show income from employment, self-employment, recurring gifts or allowances, spousal income, or funds leftover from grants or scholarships.
Why is income considered in credit card applications?
Because of the CARD Act, issuers are legally required to ask for your income. Credit card issuers want to make sure you are able to pay off your credit cards, or at least make the minimum payment so that you aren’t automatically going to go into debt. It’s important that you have enough income to easily cover at least the minimum monthly payments on a small credit line.
Your income not only helps the issuer determine whether they will approve your application, but it also helps them set your credit limit based on what they believe you are able to pay each month.
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What is considered income for credit cards?
Income from a full-time job is the most common type of income reported for credit card applications, but it’s not the only one that counts. You can typically include other income such as:
- Income (including wages and tips) from a part-time job
- Self-employed or freelance income
- Spouse’s income (included in your household income)
- Unemployment benefits (restrictions apply)
- Child support
- Grants and scholarships (after being used for tuition)
- Social Security and disability income
- Retirement and pension distributions
- Savings account assets
- Gifts (restrictions apply)
- Trust fund or inheritance distributions
- Investment returns
On the other hand, there are some types of income that are not accepted, such as:
- Your parents’ income
- Non-cash assistance
- Some types of financial aid
- One-time gifts
How can you calculate your income while applying for a card?
When calculating your gross income, add up all of the income you have from any of the sources listed above. You’ll also want to calculate your DTI.
For example, say you earn $5,000 per month (before taxes). You have a car payment of $200 per month and a mortgage payment of $1,000 per month, meaning your total monthly debt obligation is $1,200. Your DTI would be:
Debt ($1,200) / Income ($5,000) = 24% DTI
On the other hand, say you earn $3,000 per month and have the same $1,200 debt obligation:
$1,200 / $3,000 = 40% DTI
Having a DTI of 24% means you’re much more likely to have your application approved and get a higher credit limit compared to if you had a DTI of 40%.
How do credit card companies verify your income?
Typically, you won’t have a credit card issuer ask for proof of income and they often don’t actually verify your income. Instead, they look to see that you have some reported income and then check your credit score and other credit accounts to determine whether to approve your application and what to set your credit limit as. They may also look at factors like job history and housing status. This is sometimes called “income modeling.”
If you have poor or limited credit, a card issuer may request access to your bank account to check the balance. This helps ensure that even if you have lower credit, you have the ability to pay your debt.
Do not lie about your income on a credit card application. Not only can this lead to debt and hurt your credit, it can even result in prison time (up to 30 years) and a fine of up to $1 million. If you accidentally report the wrong income, that’s alright. It doesn’t have to be perfect to the exact dollar, but you should try to have an accurate estimate.
Technically you can get a credit card with no income, but it’s very difficult since the passing of the CARD Act. If you don’t have an income, you can become an authorized user on someone else’s card (such as a parent or spouse) or you can use someone else’s income to qualify (such as a spouse) as long as you have access to that income.
The best and fastest way to lower your DTI is by paying down high debt balances. Putting a pause on spending on your credit cards can also help so that you’re not continuously adding to your debt balance. If possible, try to lower your interest rate on debt through debt consolidation or 0% introductory APR credit cards. Finally, try to increase your income.
Even though you’re required to put down a deposit to open a secured credit card, you still need some type of income to get approved. The deposit makes it easier if you have a low credit score, but you likely still need to prove you can make the minimum monthly payments.