Credit Building Tips

I Accidentally Put the Wrong Income on My Credit Card Application. Now What?

By:
Shaun Connell
Updated
September 1, 2023

Credit card application questions will ask you a series of questions when you apply online. What if you accidentally put the wrong income on your credit card application? Are there any potential repercussions?

The truth is that credit card companies do not typically verify the income of every applicant. This would simply be too costly and time-consuming, given how many applications they receive on a daily basis.

Solution icon At the same time, it's important to understand that a credit card application is considered a legal document. This means that you are exposing yourself to a number of potential consequences when you misrepresent your income.

For this reason, it's a good idea to provide accurate information on your application. If you accidentally entered the wrong income, the safest bet is to change your income using your online account or call your card issuer to explain what occurred.

Is It Fraud to Lie on a Credit Card Application?

Lying about your income when applying for a credit card is considered fraud-- specifically known as loan application fraud. This is a crime that can come with some pretty substantial penalties, including fines and even time in jail.

applying for credit card online entering wrong income

You are signing a legal document when you apply for a credit card. For this reason, it's important to make sure you are reporting your income accurately.

Even though this sounds pretty scary, the truth is that it's pretty unlikely to be convicted for loan application fraud for misreporting your income on a credit card application. This is particularly the case if you only made a small error when it comes to reporting your income.

At the same time, people will occasionally be prosecuted for loan application fraud. For example, a particularly egregious case involved a Minnesota man who committed loan application fraud to the tune of nearly half a million dollars, immediately filing for bankruptcy right after he collected his last payment. For his crimes, he was ordered to pay more than $700,000 in restitution and spend 57 months in federal prison.

Do Credit Card Companies Verify Income?

Major credit card issuers are likely receiving tens if not hundreds of thousands of applications on a daily basis. Despite their sizeable workforce, this makes it impractical to analyze each application closely.

Typically, it isn't worth expending the required resources for a credit card company to verify your income. Financial institutions will, however, ask for proof of income when the stakes are much higher, such as taking out a mortgage or another large loan.

Not quite sure what counts as income when applying for a credit card? Check out our guide to properly reporting income on credit card applications.

Can Credit Card Companies Access My Bank Account?

In some cases, credit card companies might ask you to submit pay stubs or bank statements in order to verify your income. However, they aren't going to be able to look at your bank account information without you giving them permission. How much money is in your bank account also won't appear on your credit report.

What credit card issuers will be able to see when they do a hard pull of your credit is your credit history. This will help them understand how risky you are as a borrower, which basically means how likely you are to pay back debt on time.

You can get free copies of your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. By checking your credit reports, you can see what potential creditors will be able to see when they do a hard inquiry into your credit.

Even though credit card companies won't have easy access to your income or how much money you have in your bank accounts, you still don't want to overstate your income on your application. Issuers can sometimes ask applicants for proof of income randomly, and you could end up having your application rejected if your reported income doesn't match the proof you provide.

You will also draw more attention to yourself if you start falling behind on your payments. Financial institutions might investigate why you are being offered a credit limit you don't seem to be able to keep up with. For instance, American Express is known for watching out for red flags that can lead to an audit and a locked account. When this happens, borrowers won't be able to use their credit anymore until income verification or other data is provided.

I Accidentally Put the Wrong Income on My Credit Card Application. Now What?

Applying for a credit card these days is a very simple process. They'll typically ask you for personal and financial information, including your:

  • Name
  • Social Security number
  • Address
  • Employment information
  • Annual income
  • Debt load

As you might imagine, having a higher income can help improve your chances of being approved. Beyond that, this can also lead you to receive a higher credit limit.

applying for credit card online and accidentally entering wrong income

At the same time, it's really best to avoid overstating your income on a credit card application. Though there might not be any repercussions, particularly if you practice responsible repayment habits, the potential consequences are severe enough that it really isn't worth the risk.

What to Do If You Put the Wrong Income on a Credit Card Application

What you should do if you accidentally put the wrong income on your credit card application is going to depend on a number of factors.

  • One important factor is the margin by which your income is off. For example, if you meant to write $10,000 but you actually wrote $110,000 for your income, it is probably best to contact the issuer in order to correct the problem.

There also might be the ability to change your income through your online account. If you are worried about having improperly listed your income on your application and you were approved for the card, consider changing your income using the online interface.

The Potential Consequences of Reporting the Wrong Income on a Credit Card Application

If you lie on a credit card application, it is possible you could face some very unappealing consequences. Both the intent of the misinformation and the severity can impact how you are affected.

Denying Your Credit Card Application

One thing that might happen if you lie about your income, even if accidentally, is that your credit card application could be denied. While credit card companies don't always verify income, it's possible that they could catch you in the act after some red flags are raised.

It is considered fraudulent to lie on a credit card application. For this reason, if fraud is suspected, your application will likely be rejected immediately.

Closing Your Account

If you were approved for a new credit card despite the fact that you misstated your income on the application, it doesn't necessarily mean you're in the clear.

If a credit card issuer becomes aware of a discrepancy between your reported income and your actual income, they could close your account. This is particularly true if it becomes clear that your income was intentionally misrepresented.

Receiving Too Much Credit

Telling the credit card company that you make more money than you actually do can mean you have access to a higher credit limit. While this might seem like a good thing-- after all, you can borrow more money, and it can help your credit utilization ratio-- there are some risks involved.

When you enter your income on a credit card application, the issuer will use this information (among other pieces of information) to calculate how much money they can extend to you.

  • If your stated income is higher than your actual income, this can mean they extend a larger credit line to you than they would otherwise.

If you are using more credit than you are able to actually pay back, this can have a negative impact on your credit score and leave you with spiraling debt. Some people are able to resist the urge to spend more than they can afford, but others are easily tempted to max out cards regardless of their ability to repay what they owe.

Facing Legal Consequences

It is possible that there could be legal repercussions that result from providing false information. This is particularly the case if it appears you did so intentionally. While accidentally entering slightly incorrect income information might never come back to bite you, intentionally misrepresenting your financial circumstances could leave you facing legal action.

Credit Card Applications and Income FAQ

Before I sign off, let's take a closer look at some of the most common questions I'm asked about reporting income on credit card applications.

What Happens If I Declare Bankruptcy After Lying on a Credit Card Application?

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to declare bankruptcy, there are a number of types of debt that can be wiped from your record. If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the following debts can typically be discharged:

  • Credit card debt
  • Personal loans and other unsecured debt
  • Medical bills
  • Phone bills
  • Unpaid utility bills
  • Deficiency balances after a foreclosure or repossession
  • Personal liability on secured debts if there isn't a reaffirmation agreement
  • Judgments from unpaid medical bills, credit card debt, or other forms of unsecured debt

However, your ability to use bankruptcy as a tool to escape credit card debt is going to be compromised if you misrepresent your income on a credit card application. If the financial institution believes that you lied on your application, they can ask that the debt you owe isn't discharged. By misstating your income, it can be argued that you never actually planned to repay the debt and instead had schemed to use the bankruptcy process to intentionally borrow money and have the debt discharged.

What Are the Risks of Taking on More Credit Than I Can Handle?

If you tell the credit card companies your income is higher than it actually is, whether intentionally or not, it can mean you are extended more credit than you can reasonably repay.

There are a number of potential risks of taking on more credit than you can handle. These include:

  • Debt accumulation: The most obvious negative impact of having a higher credit limit than you can afford is debt accumulation. If you aren't careful, you can rack up hefty balances on your credit card accounts while not being able to pay off the balances in full. Due to the way interest works, this can leave you with a spiraling debt problem.
  • Credit score impact: Having a high credit limit can help your credit utilization ratio, but only if you keep your balances low. If you're spending more than you can afford and, therefore, keeping high balances on your accounts, it can end up dropping your credit score. Furthermore, your credit score will additionally suffer if you start missing payments on your debt.
  • High-interest costs: If you stack up substantial balances that you can't pay off in full each month, you'll end up paying a lot of money in interest over time. This can make it hard to escape debt and otherwise work to achieve your financial goals in life.

Additional Risks of Having Too High of a Credit Limit

What else can happen if your credit limit is higher than you can afford? Here are some other things to watch out for.

  • Payment management: If you have applied to several different credit cards with incorrect income information, this can lead to difficulties in managing multiple payments. The more separate payments you have, the more likely you will miss a payment and deal with late fees. If your payment is late enough that it gets reported to the credit bureaus, it can also really hurt your credit score.
  • Future credit applications: If you have a high level of existing debt that you are struggling to pay off, it's probably going to have a negative impact on your ability to borrow money from other lenders.
  • Emergency fund access: If a big portion of your income each month is going toward paying credit card bills, it can mean you don't have as much leeway as you should when it comes to accessing emergency funds.
  • Encouraging overspending: Having a credit limit that is beyond what a person can repay can potentially encourage overspending. While some individuals do not have a problem resisting the temptation to use all of the credit extended to them, others struggle to practice self-restraint and can therefore, get themselves into a mountain of debt they can't afford.

What Factors Do Credit Card Companies Use to Determine Credit Limits?

Income is only one of the factors a credit card company will use to determine whether your application will be accepted and, if so, what your credit limit will be.

To calculate your credit limit, the information they'll use includes:

  • Income
  • Monthly payment obligations
  • Debt to income ratio
  • Payment history
  • Credit utilization

Beyond the particulars of your circumstances, other factors can influence the credit limit you are offered. For example, the state of the economy can have an impact on the underwriting standards of a credit card company. If the larger economy is in a bad spot, for example, you might not receive as high a credit limit as you would if the economy is robust.

How Can I Get a Credit Card With a Low Income?

If you're tempted to lie on your application because you have low or no income, you might be interested to learn about the best options for low-income individuals.

Here are some things you can look for when shopping around for a credit card for low-income earners:

  • No annual fee: There are plenty of cards out there that don't have an attached annual fee, so low-income earners will want to make this a priority.
  • Cash-back rewards: Some cards can actually help you save money by offering cash-back rewards. Of course, you'll want to make sure you're paying your balance off in full every month. Otherwise, the interest you pay will likely be more than the cashback benefits you receive.
  • Preapproval processes that only require a soft credit pull: While most issuers will run a hard inquiry into your credit before approving you, a number of cards allow you to use a preapproval tool that only does a soft credit pull. This means that you can figure out whether you will be likely to receive approval without dinging your credit.

How Can I Get a Credit Card With No Job?

If you want to apply for a credit card but aren't employed, you'll want to consider whether you have any income you can report on your application.

Here are some things you could include, if applicable:

  • Shared household income: This could include any income earned by your partner or spouse.
  • Earned income from self-employment: Even if you aren't an employee on a payroll, you can list self-employment income on your credit card application. This includes running a small business or working as an independent contractor.
  • Retirement income: Payments from Social Security or distributions from retirement accounts can be included in your reported income.
  • Unemployment benefits: You can list unemployment benefits on your application if you're receiving unemployment payments after losing your job.

If you simply don't have a consistent source of income that will help you qualify for a credit card, here are some options:

  • Become an authorized user: If a trusted family member or friend is willing to let you become an authorized user, it can help you build credit and help you be able to get your own card down the road. However, it's important that the primary account holder has a strong credit history and will make on-time payments.
  • Apply for a secured credit card: If you have a limited income but want to gain access to credit, consider a secured credit card. You put down a refundable security deposit in order to do this, which serves as collateral. This can help you build credit over time and increase the odds that you will be approved for an unsecured card in the future.
  • Find a co-signer: If a loved one is willing to co-sign your credit card account, this can help you be approved even with a low income.

Reporting Income on Card Applications: Final Thoughts

If you have only made a small error when it comes to your income on a credit card application, the chance that anything bad will end up happening is pretty small. At the same time, credit card applications are considered legal documents, and lying on these documents is considered fraud.

A large discrepancy between your stated income and your actual income could end up causing you trouble, on the other hand. The credit card company could ask you to verify your income and could deny your application or close your account if they find that you misrepresented how much money you make. Furthermore, credit card issuers could also use this as a reason to ask that your credit card debt not be discharged in the event that you file for bankruptcy.

In general, it's best just to be honest when you're applying for a credit card. If you made an honest mistake when filling out your income and your application was accepted, you can change your income in your online account. Depending on the difference between your stated and actual income, it's possible this could cause a change in your credit limit.

Are you on a mission to improve your financial literacy? If you're working to build credit, incorporate good personal finance habits into your life, and generally work towards your financial goals, make sure you check out the rest of our Credit Building Tips blog.

Written By:
Shaun Connell
Shaun Connell is a personal finance and credit expert with a passion for helping individuals eliminate debt and improve their credit. He's enjoyed writing investing and financial content for over 15 years, with expertise in real estate, debt, banking, credit, and wealth building. His work has been seen by millions on the web.

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