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Credit scores and credit cards — how to get your card

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Credit scores and credit cards go hand-in-hand.

Your credit score determines whether you’ll get the credit card or not. Why is that, and how do you ensure you get approved?

This post covers everything. Get ready.

Here we go.


What credit score do I need for a credit card?

In South Africa, most creditors consider a credit score of 650 or higher a good credit score. Therefore, most applicants with scores above 650 should get approved. But, people with lower scores may also get approved, and some institutions may even deny an application from someone in this range. 

Each bank and financial institution has its own way of working, so requirements vary.

If you’re considering an application with a specific creditor, just give them a call or reach out to find out about their specific requirements.


A Q&A graphic that looks like a text between two people asking and answering the question "What credit score do I need for a credit card?"


💡 Tip: don’t recklessly apply to see if you’ll get approved. The number of credit applications listed in your credit history impacts your credit score. And guess what? Too many applications hurt your credit rating.

Let’s look at the relationship between credit cards and credit scores.


What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number that represents a person’s creditworthiness and typically ranges between 0 to 999 (some platforms like Clearscore use a credit score range of 0 to 705).

The score indicates how likely someone is to repay their debts based on past credit behaviour (payment history, length of credit history, types of credit accounts, etc.).

The higher your credit score, the better. High-risk borrowers have low (or poor) credit scores, while low-risk or secure borrowers have high (or good) credit scores.


What is a credit score definition


Creditors and lenders use credit scores to assess whether it is safe to loan money or provide credit access to individuals.

Bonus: We go into a lot of detail on credit scores in our article: What is a good credit score in South Africa? Check it out if you want to learn more.

Okay, so what is the minimum score that you’d need to get a credit card?


Minimum credit score to get a credit card in South Africa

The minimum credit score to get a credit card in South Africa can be below the benchmark of 650 when applicants apply for more lenient credit card offerings (usually credit cards with higher interest rates or some form of collateral.)

Remember. Credit scores aren’t the only factor that banks consider. Stable income, employment, and a relationship with the bank could also influence someone with a poor credit score’s ability to get approved.

Generally, it’s better to build a strong credit record.

Extra resource: Can you get a personal loan with a low credit score?

Want to check your credit score?

Keep reading.


How to check your credit score

You can check your credit score through any local credit bureaus. The easiest way to check your credit score is to use an online application.

South Africa has several credit reporting tools that you could use:

(Some are free, others are paid subscriptions)


How to get a credit report
  1. Select a credit bureau or reporting tool.
  2. Visit the website
  3. Sign up for an account
  4. Verify your identity
  5. Request your credit report


It’s quick and easy, and you can do it on your computer or your phone.

⭐ Bonus: you can use your credit report to figure out if you have restricted credit access. Check out this article to find out how to check if you are blacklisted.

Okay, so we’ve covered credit scores. Let’s move on to credit cards and how to apply.


How to apply for a credit card

Applying for a credit card is straightforward, but the process takes time.

How to apply for a credit card in South Africa:

  1. Do your research and compare credit cards
  2. Review the eligibility criteria to see if you qualify
  3. Get your documents together (proof of identity, proof of residence, proof of income, etc.)
  4. Apply
  5. Wait for the bank to review your application
  6. Get approved or denied
  7. If approved — sign the contracts and pick up your credit card


The process may vary slightly depending on the institution that you choose. Either way, take your time while doing your research and signing your contracts. Ensure you understand the agreements, and don’t be afraid to ask for changes.

💡 Pro tip: You don’t have to accept the full amount of credit you get approved for. You can start lower and increase this amount at a later time.


How to choose your first credit card

It’s up to you which credit card you want to go with, but a few things are useful to keep in mind while you decide.


What to consider when choosing your first credit card


Fees and interest rates

Aim for a competitive interest rate and reasonable fees. Take note of penalties, annual fees, and other charges.

Rewards programs

Finding a card that offers rewards that align with your spending habits has its benefits (cashback, points, etc.)

Credit limit and eligibility

Consider the credit limits different cards offer — do they meet your needs? And do you meet the eligibility requirements?

💡 Tip: Don’t apply when you’re sure you’ll get denied. It’s bad for your score.

Terms and conditions

Always take time to read the terms and conditions carefully. Make sure that you’re happy with the terms of the credit agreement.


Final thoughts

Let’s summarise.

Generally, you’ll want to keep your credit score above 650 to improve your chances of getting approved and secure the best rates and terms.

If your credit score is lower, you could seek a more lenient credit product as long as your income, employment, and history with the bank are stable.

And lastly, several steps are involved in a credit card application, but you can do 97% of it from home. The important thing is to take your time and choose the right credit product (best rates, terms, and bonuses).

That’s it for credit cards and credit scores.

If you’re struggling to improve your credit score because you have too much debt, check out My Debt Hero. We could help reduce your monthly debt instalment and alleviate some of your financial stress.

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