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A pen resting on a credit card application form, with the Employment Information section visible.

Can you get a credit card without a job?

Yes, you can get a credit card without a job.

However, while a job isn’t required, you do need to provide your annual income as a way to show you have the ability to pay for any charges.

Reporting income is instrumental in getting credit

When filling out a credit card application, it often asks for your total income derived from a job and any other sources. That’s because the CARD Act of 2009 prohibits credit card issuers from giving you a credit card without first considering your repayment ability. Divulging your income is mandatory on your credit card application but voluntary once you’ve been approved for the card. Knowing your income is key as the amount is a determining factor in your ability to pay for charges and the amount of credit that might be extended to you.

If you have a lower or no credit score your income may be weighed more heavily in deciding whether to grant you credit. But if you have a steady, reliable income to draw from, you may be viewed as more attractive and less risky to potential lenders.

On the other hand, even if you have a good credit score but little or no income, you may be denied credit or be offered less credit than you’d like. This is because income factors into the credit application process, including helping to determine your credit limit.

Credit reports & scores don’t consider  income

While credit reports do list a number of things—credit accounts or “tradelines,” identifying information, and your payment history, to name a few—your income is not one of them. Five main factors also go into calculating your FICO® Score—one of the primary credit-scoring models—but, again, income is not one of them.

So a raise, a better-paying job, or an additional income stream will not directly raise your credit score. It could, however, indirectly result in bumping up your three-digit credit score, which potential lenders use to assess your creditworthiness. That’s because, while income and credit score are not linked, income can play a big role in your overall credit picture. Here’s how.

Income is often needed for a credit line increase

Under the CARD Act, a credit card issuer must also consider a consumer’s ability to make the necessary payments before granting a credit line increase. Your credit card company will ask you to update or confirm your income before making a decision to extend more credit.

How income may affect your credit score

Your income doesn’t directly affect your credit score, but it can influence it by affecting things that do contribute to your score. Here’s how it could influence each of the five categories that make up your FICO Score.

1. Payment history (35% of score)

By living within your means, and exercising responsible fiscal behavior, the more income you have—whether it’s from a job or other means or assets—the easier it should be to make consistent, on-time payments. Doing so will be reflected in your credit reports and your credit score.

2. Credit utilization ratio (30% of score)

By increasing your total amount of credit and keeping your balances low, you can lower your credit utilization ratio, which could increase your credit score.

3. Length of credit history (15% of score)

A higher income may allow you to open credit accounts that you keep open for some time, raising the average age of your accounts and contributing to giving your credit score a bump.

4. New credit (10% of score)

A steady source of income once again makes you more attractive to lenders, which could result in an increase in the number of new accounts you open, which comprises 10% of your credit score.

5. Credit mix (10% of score)

Income is a factor in acquiring revolving credit (credit cards), but it also plays a big role in installment credit, such as auto loans, mortgages, etc. A healthy, steady income should make you more attractive to banks and mortgage companies for installment loans, which will diversify your credit mix.

Having a job is not a requirement to get a credit card. However, having an annual income is. Getting a raise or a better-paying gig or tapping into another income stream is nearly always a good thing. Just know that more income alone won’t drive up your credit score.


About the author:

Marc Klein

With his eyes set on becoming the next great ad man (at least until his comedy writing career took off), Marc earned his journalism degree and went straight into advertising for various gaming and tourism clients. He later expanded his credentials to include public affairs and communications work for several environmental science organizations before returning to his marketing roots. A lifelong scholar with recent studies in strategic communication, Marc enjoys tying humor into his writing and simplifying complex financial subjects into engaging and easy-to-digest content for a wide variety of audiences.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor, attorney or financial advisor. Readers should consult with their own tax advisor, attorney or financial advisor with regard to their personal situations.