It’s amazing that within a few short years, we’ve come to depend on the internet for everything from getting the latest news, to booking our flights. But did you know that many of the major credit card issuers will also let you complete a credit card application online too?
This is a major convenience, and so this article looks at what’s involved, and what to look out for.
The biggest concern most people have with entering personal information on a website is security. This is especially true for credit card application forms, because so much of the information you give can be used for criminal purposes, should it fall into the wrong hands.
Thankfully, credit card providers are aware of this, and all of them ask you to fill out information on a secure website. It is virtually impossible for hackers to access your personal details through sites like these.
In reality, the real security check comes from ‘phishing’ attacks. This involves criminals setting up fake websites that look just like reputable ones, and where unsuspecting customers enter sensitive information. It’s difficult to tell from a casual glance whether a site is fake or not, so before you enter any information, check the following items:
- Does the website address begin with ‘https://’ rather than the usual ‘http://’? If so, that’s a good sign, because the extra ‘s’ stands for security. Many web browsers will also say what organization is certifying the secure connection, so as an added precaution, do a search for information about them, to make sure they’re reputable (e.g. Verisign, Thawte, etc).
- Is the website address spelled correctly? Many fraudulent sites simply register similar names to reputable websites. For example, a misspelling of this website’s address could be creditcardswith-rewards.com (hyphen in the wrong place). Other tricks include using plurals, adding extra letters, substituting a letter with a similar looking one, etc.
- How did you get to the application form? If you clicked on link in an unsolicited email, or found it on a little-known website, check your sources carefully.
If in doubt, use one of the major search engines to look for the main company website, then just use links available within that site to navigate to the application form.
What information you’ll need
Every application form will ask for personal information, and this will vary from country to country. Generally, they will ask for basic details (name, address, date of birth, phone, etc). This is obvious enough, as they’ll need to be able to contact you, and know that you have a physical address. A social security number will also be required to perform a background check.
Other personal identification will often be asked for (e.g. driver’s license number) as an added verification measure. Furthermore, they will likely ask for your total household income, and will use this information in conjunction with credit checks to ensure you can afford to take on more debt.
You will probably be asked for some personal information, such as your mother’s maiden name, which is simply used as a security question, should you ever have to verify your identity by phone. Different cards may add some other requests, but it’s usually just to make the application process more efficient.
After you submit…
Most of the information you’ll be asked for is sensible enough, and once you submit your application, you’ll normally have to wait for a decision. Some card providers do give instant approval, but generally, you’ll receive a decision in writing within two weeks. If you’ve got an excellent credit rating, you’ll usually get a quicker decision.
In general, there’s nothing sinister or underhand about online credit card application forms. Any reputable provider will provide a link from the application form to a page outlining their policies, and you should read through this document carefully. Make sure your personal information is only being used for purposes you’re comfortable with (i.e. not being sent to marketing departments), and you’ll find that applying for a credit card online is the only way to go!
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