You need to make some purchases, but you really don’t have the money at hand for now. Then you decide to go for a credit card. And you send your application to the credit card issuing company.

A couple of weeks later, you get a letter from the same company. With raised hopes, you tear open the letter. Inwardly, you are already commending the issuing company for granting your application so quickly. And you are already planning to a flat-screen HDTV with your new rewards card.

As you read the letter, your eyes caught the shocker. You read the lines again, yet no changes. You can’t believe it, but your application for the credit card of your dreams has been denied. Your mouth goes dry. Rivulets of sweat trickle down your face. You are confused. And the next thought that comes to your mind is to crush the shitty letter into a ball or shred it in microscopic pieces before trashing it.

This is the credit card version of a break up letter from a lover or sack letter from a long-term employer. And as with relationships and employment, this news is very painful especially if you didn’t see it coming. In this kind of situation, getting rid of the letter isn’t the best action take. Here are the steps you should take, instead:

4 Action Steps to Take When Your Credit Card Application is Denied

1. Find out the reason for the denial

Under the rules of the Banking Code, all lenders are required to give a primary reason why a credit application is rejected. So, the issuing company must make it clear why they have rejected your application, especially if you request to know.

As such, the first step you should take is to contact the lender who denied your application, and politely ask why. The best approach is to call them on telephone or send them a letter, demanding a prompt explanation for the denial.

Your credit card application may have been declined due to certain marks on your credit record such as previous credit or defaulted payments. Similarly, the denial may be due to a besmirched credit record. While you may be able to figure out why your application was declined, the only way to find out for sure is to ask.

2. Check your credit report

If a low credit score or a bad credit history is the primary reason for your application’s denial, and you think this is unjustified, order copies of your credit report from one or all of the three credit agencies (Experian, Callcredit, and Equifax).

Looking at your credit report, chances are that you will be able to see what the lender looked at while assessing you as a potential borrower, and the reason for your application’s declination may be immediately obvious to you—such as some payments you defaulted on years ago when you knew little about personal finance and credit.

While looking at your credit report, you might spot anomalies you cannot account for, such as a credit card opened in your name that you don’t recognize. In such case, you can erase the incorrect entries by contacting the named issuer. If you spot things on your credit report that you don’t seem to know anything about, it’s possible that you have become a victim of fraud, in which case you must contact your bank immediately.

3. Improve your credit score

If the reason for your bad credit score is not one that you can give a quick-fix treatment (such as having an error entry deleted), improving your credit is your best option—not only for the present application you are concerned with, but for future credit applications.

Another smart way to improve your credit score is to go for a credit card that will actually improve your rating as you use it. Such credit cards are known as ‘credit building credit cards‘ or ‘bad credit credit cards,‘ and they are meant for those with a low credit rating. By using these cards and paying them off in full on a regular basis, you can prove your financial discipline, demonstrate your ability to handle credit, and most importantly, improve your credit score.

While there are many other ways to improve your credit rating over time, the best way is to prove that you can handle the credit you already do have by using it carefully and making the required payments on time.

4. Send another application

Repeat applications can hurt your credit score, especially when they are all rejected. So, you should wait a few months after a credit card denial before applying for another one. In fact, if you have set for yourself the task of improving your credit score over a period of time, you may not get to make another application for up to one year. Before making an application again, check many times over that you meet the application criteria, such as required income, age, and so on.

Ajaero Tony Martins