These days, having credit cards on hand is almost essential. This is especially true if you plan to shop online or wish to make larger purchases. If you're new to credit cards, you may be wondering how to apply for one. The process is a lot easier than you might think, and going through it can help you get a great credit card that you love. Here's what to expect—and all the steps you need to take—during the credit card application process. 1. Research the different credit card options First, you'll want to get a feel for what credit card options are out there. There are card options for different people and lifestyles. Wondering how to choose a good card for you? This depends on your personal needs, how you plan to use the card and your credit and financial history. For example, if you want to get a free vacation you will want to look for a travel rewards credit card, whereas if you want to finance a purchase you will look for a 0% interest credit card. Here are some things to consider when looking at potential credit cards: \tWhat is the card's annual percentage rate (APR)? \tIs there an annual fee? \tWhat is the credit limit (it may vary based on credit history)? \tAre there any rewards programs? \tAre there any current extra incentives that may lead you to choose one card over another? You should always research each card before applying to avoid any surprises. Take your time comparing cards so you choose one that best meets your needs. 2. Review mail offers Many credit card companies advertise their offerings through the mail. Keep an eye on your mail and hold on to some offers so you can compare cards, but remember that some offers do come with expiration dates. 3. Review online offers Credit card companies also target users online. You may see an ad or receive an email offer for a specific card. Take a look at any offers online and compare those with mail offers. Some offers are customized for specific groups or mailings, so you could find an offer that is much better for you personally. Seek tip: Still not sure which offer is right for you—or don't even know where to start in reviewing your options? Check out our extensive articles, credit card reviews, and comparisons for help. 4. Apply Next, you'll need to apply for a credit card. This application paperwork helps banks determine if you're eligible for a specific card. When you apply, make sure you complete all paperwork—incomplete applications increase the risk of a longer waiting period or denial, even if you might otherwise qualify for the card. Here a few ways to apply for a credit card: Mail in offer You can mail in an offer form that you received in person or by mail. Be prepared to wait a bit longer for a decision if you apply this way due to the mailing process. Use a code from an offer online Mailed and emailed offers often come with a code, which you can use to complete an app online. Simply follow the instructions in your offer email. Use the link on a website If you see an offer advertised online, follow the link to the application website. Sometimes these links let you get extra sign-up bonus points or special deals. Go into a bank branch If you're applying for a card branded or offered by a physical bank, you can visit a bank branch and apply in person. This can be a good choice if you have any questions about the card or about the application process. 5. Report all income You'll need to report your income on your application. This gives the credit card companies a better picture of your financial situation. You should include your gross income from all sources. If you have any part-time gigs, receive child support or rent, or have other alternative incomes, be sure to report those too. While it may feel weird listing this personal financial information, it's essential. Credit card companies want to make sure you'll be able to pay off your debt before they give you a card—the law actually requires they do that. Your income also helps determine your credit limit. 6. Complete balance transfer sections if applicable Some individuals choose to transfer an existing balance from one card to a new one. This is often done to take advantage of a great APR deal or as a way to merge debt into one place. Be prepared to provide detailed information related to your current credit card. This may include the card's balance and the credit card account number. This information is necessary to transfer the balance. It's a good idea to look at balance transfer details before you apply, so you understand all of the terms. 7. Await a decision Finally, you'll need to wait for a decision. If you apply online, you may hear back within moments or a couple of days. If you apply by mail, it may take a couple of weeks to hear back. Your best bet is to go about your everyday life and not worry or stress about the approval process. With extra care and consideration, you can find a perfect credit card for you.