Applying for a credit card while unemployed? Advice?

American Express forum. Talk about AmEx credit cards like Blue, Gold, Platinum, Centurion, and more.
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Money card
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Postby Money card » Sat Aug 20, 2011 10:36 pm

so somebody that pays their bills like a visa or mastercard. let's say they run 250 a month and let's say they pay 175 and their interest is 14.60%. do you think they can aquire a gold card? back in 1987 around there, I applied for the green card and it was the first credit card I ever applied for. I was obvisouly denied. But I ended up getting a First fidelity visa which would be the same as blue, blue cash or clear. the only difference was in those days american express had no flexibility to pay over time cards. and visas in those days had annual fees. blue, blue cash and clear have no annual fees.

so why did I get a visa credit card and not the American express green card?

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Postby JNK » Sat Aug 27, 2011 8:18 am

@ Money card:

To my understanding, AMEX has always been one of the more difficult card/credit card companies to get approved for and to get unsolicited pre-approved credit card - not charge - offers from.

I only started using credit in 1999, but as I built up my credit, I was getting credit card offers in 2000 and 2001 everywhere from VISA and Mastercard, but very very few from American Express. My peers who were using credit like I was - admittedly not too many since I was 18/19 at the time when I got my first major credit card - expressed the same sentiments. My father who used to have a corporate American Express charge card for taking care of his work-incurred expenses for traveling and the like mentioned that American Express seemed to be "extremely picky" even in offering their charge card service which had/has less liability.

That said, perhaps American Express was simply being picky with you? I have heard of people who have applied for VISA and Mastercard credit cards that have required "excellent credit" and have gotten approved despite their not-quite-excellent credit and yet were turned down for a similar American Express card that required the same "excellent credit". Then again, those were credit situations and not charge card situations.

@ cambridgechica

If I were you and if I had my heart set on getting a good rewards credit card, I would actually wait a while longer to apply and use the time that you are waiting to improve upon your credit score/maintain a good credit score.

The reason I say that is to my understanding and experience, cashback rewards cards that come with no fees and lower interest rates and whatevers are generally more difficult to get approved for unless you're sitting in the 700s range/excellent range in terms of your FICO score. This is because that in addition to the credit line they are offering you (which has the possibility for default or overspending and paying only the minimum for forever), they are also offering incentives and bonuses - in this case, a decent cashback bonus.

Here is a (long) story I will share that illustrates a real life example though you and whoever else is reading is welcome to just skip this.

My parents have enough credit limit on their oldest credit card to purchase a new car and their APR is crazy low below the prime and they're almost done with a second mortgage (we moved houses, so this is the second time they've done a mortgage) and so it probably comes to no surprise that their credit is and has been in excellent standing for a very long time. When they applied for a really great no-fees rewards credit card (that had a history of being difficult to apply for unless you had excellent credit) maybe 2 years into paying the mortgage on our second house, they got instantly approved and were given a huge credit line to go with it.

On the other hand, my older sibling who also has/had excellent credit and was helping to pay for the mortgage and actually had a higher-paying job than my father applied for the same card... and was approved, but got a lower tiered card of the same type with a higher APR and much lower credit limit. Of course, said sibling is much younger than the parentals and so has a less lengthy establishment of credit.

Fast forward one year and -I- apply for the exact same card and I get approved for the same card my sibling got (the lower tiered, but still the same card)... and MY APR is lower than theirs by several points and I get a credit limit that is higher than theirs, too.

I asked the customer service rep how such a thing was possible and what she told that could have happened is this (speaking generally and not actually looking at my sibling's account because of privacy reasons): My credit score was higher (true), I had a lower debt to credit ratio (true, I didn't pay a mortgage and the mortgage was in the early phases of repayment and my sibling might have still had part of an auto loan to pay off), or there was something more favorable about my spending habits (no idea). On the other hand, I was for sure tiered down because where I had positive revolving lines of credit, I hadn't established any positive installment lines of credit yet and so it was affecting how high my credit limit could be. This latter bit surely explains how my parents managed to get the 'best' version of the card right off the bat complete with high limits and the lowest available APR.

All that said, the point is is that there are definitely other factors that can positively weigh in such as income level or changes in employment status or spending and paying habits and patterns and previous relationships with the card company in question.

I have a story about the latter bit, too, regarding previous relationships with card companies and how they can affect your future credit and credit worthiness and it's about American Express.

I've been an American Express cardholder for 10 years since the age of 19 and one of my very first credit cards was actually the American Express Blue (for students) which has since converted to a regular Blue and is now my lowest APR card of all time with an APR that is actually way below the market prime for the card.

There was a time where my spending went haywire owing to illness and the disparity between my income and all the incoming medical bills became too much. I only carried two credit cards at the time - my American Express being one of them - and I ended up maxing out my credit line.

After being forced with the possibility of having to default - I was to the point of making payments, but not meeting the minimums and I was being late but not defaulting as I owed money to too many places and wasn't able to work at the time owing to the illness - I liquidated my savings and what little I had invested and with the additional generous help of my family, paid off what was remaining (thankfully not much) and sockdrawered my two credit cards.

A year passed and after regaining control over my finances (or mostly regaining control), I decided that maybe it was time to confront my credit problems (I was young and where I understood credit enough to understand the consequences of defaulting and being late, etc, I was too scared to see what damage I had done to my credit) and so I gritted my teeth and called the number on the back of my American Express card in hopes that maybe I could get back on my credit feet with their help.

Things had been so chaotic during the time when I sockdrawered my cards that I didn't even know if my account was still active, got closed, or deactivated or what.

The credit rep that answered firstly gave me a warm welcome back and said that it had been a long time since they had heard from me and then asked me gently if I was ready to come back to American Express. I apologized for the credit mishaps I had gone through and though I hadn't intended for it to happen, I spilled everything that had happened to me during that time period and after listening to me, she put me on hold and referred me to their internal credit counseling service.

The gentleman whom I spoke to welcomed me back similarly and for a few minutes, we just talked about credit and the importance of good credit and how to build and rebuild credit and how to not fall into credit traps. He - like the rep before him - asked me the same thing - if I was ready to come back to American Express - and when I said that I was ready, he said - and I quote: "Then I welcome you back to American Express. We have missed you and hope that your renewed relationship with us will last a lifetime. I want you to remember that we at American Express are here for you and if you need any more advice on credit or need credit counseling, please don't be afraid to let us know."

After that, I got my account back (the card itself was deactivated without use and so the phone call ended up reactivating the card) and I got it back with a better APR and credit limit on it than I had started with.

Today, with a fully repaired excellent credit history and credit report, I own three American Express cards (one cobranded with a department store card) and one of them is still that old card. It's not the best American Express card out there, but it's my first and one of my oldest and it's the card that I nearly lost (and with it, my relationship with American Express) but was able to get back. It's my best APR - considerably below prime - and my relationship with American Express couldn't be any better (in my opinion).

When I called them recently to inform them of a possible borked online payment (my internet cut out at the processing screen), I also asked them about theoretically adding a new rewards card to my collection. The rep asked me how my credit had been doing and when I reported that it was actually doing better since the last time I called, the rep said that I wouldn't have any problems applying for any of the no-fees rewards credit cards that I was considering and invited me to submit an application.

I declined because I have been thinking of getting a car (which would need an installment loan), but I kept what she said in mind and that is this:

Like the previous rewards card story of years past, I needed excellent credit to be approved and in this case, my previous history with the card company made a difference in their willingness to extend the offer.

All that talking aside, if you're still really set on giving the rewards credit application a shot:

Call American Express and you can talk to a rep before you actually take the plunge to apply and you can ask for their opinion on your current status and the possibility of you getting approved.

Like others have said, whatever you do, do not lie to them. American Express was willing to give me a second chance and trust in me... but only after I was honest and upfront with them.

Good luck!
Personal Collection:

AMEX: Everyday (MR), Macy's (cobranded)
MASTER: Citibank Dividend Platinum Select (non-World version)
VISA: Chase Amazon Signature, Chase (bank issued)
GE: Care Credit (medical expenses), Macy's (store), JCP (store)

Business Collection:

AMEX: Costco True Earnings
VISA: Chase Ink Cash

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Postby cambridgechica » Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:09 pm

JNK, thanks for your input and for sharing your story. And thanks to everyone else, too!

And don't worry, guys--when I do apply, I don't plan on fudging my application for an AmEx card (or any card, for that matter) :)

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