While having a poor credit history limits your choice of options, there are still credit cards available that offer guaranteed approval without doing a credit check. These cards can be a great stepping stone to helping you build up your credit while saving your credit score from taking a hit.
If you have bad credit and are concerned your application for a credit card will be rejected, check out your options below.
Refresh Secured Card
Refresh Secured Card
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Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply
Refresh Secured Card
Apply today for this low annual fee secured card and get guaranteed approval with no credit check once you secure your card with some funds.
This comparison displays both secured and unsecured credit cards that don’t require a credit check.
What is bad credit?
Having bad credit usually means that your credit score is lower than average due to a history of missed payments, loan defaults or bankruptcy. Your credit history is stored by credit bureaus like Equifax and TransUnion and is used by lenders to decide whether or not to offer you credit. Your credit score determines your credit rating which could be “poor”, “fair”, “good”, “very good” or “excellent”. Your score is calculated by credit bureaus using the information on your file and is a number between 300 and 900. The higher your credit score, the lower your risk as a borrower.
What are the credit score tiers and ranges?
There is no single, definitive credit score for an individual – credit scores differ slightly depending on the bureau, which means your Equifax score will probably be slightly different from your TransUnion credit score.
While not set in stone, the general credit tiers are:
Before applying for a credit card, it’s important to distinguish between a “soft credit inquiry” and a “hard credit inquiry” search on your credit report.
When you’re considering a particular credit card, most banks and credit card providers offer an eligibility check on their website. This is a simple online form that can tell you your chances of success in obtaining a credit card. This is known as a “soft inquiry” that doesn’t impact your credit report because it isn’t an official application. A “hard inquiry”, on the other hand, happens when you officially apply and involves a credit check and your credit score will be affected. If a potential lender sees a lot of hard inquiries on your report in a small space of time, this could suggest you are struggling to find credit and this makes your application less likely to be approved by the lender.
What are my options?
If you have a bad credit score – or perhaps have no credit history at all – then a credit builder credit card could be a great place to start. While the credit limits are lower and sometimes a deposit is required (as is the case for secured credit cards), you can enjoy some of the benefits of credit card ownership while you build up your score with responsible use and regular payments.
Unlike many mainstream credit cards that offer travel or reward programs, there are usually few benefits or rewards offered by credit builder cards. The interest rate on purchases, however, can be very reasonable and some cards offer guaranteed approval. It’s important to note, however, that not everyone qualifies for “guaranteed approval”.
Tips for applying
While each lender’s criteria is different, there are some general things you can do to increase your chances of approval.
If the card issuer offers one, use an eligibility check before applying. Figure out your realistic chances of getting a credit card before making an official application.
Check the lender’s advertised eligibility criteria (e.g. minimum income, age of majority, account history with the lender).
Make sure you have all the correct information and documents on hand before making an application (e.g. bank account details, annual income details).
It usually takes about 10-15 minutes to apply online and you usually know whether you’re approved in moments. Occasionally, some providers may require further information and your application could take up to two weeks to be processed.
Dos and don’ts
Credit card providers have different reasons for accepting or rejecting your application. Here are some important dos and don’ts to help you increase your chances of approval and how to manage your credit card once you have it.
If offered, use the eligibility check first before applying.
Pay off your full balance every month to avoid high interest charges.
Be aware of annual or monthly fees or any other charges.
Don’t make multiple credit card applications at once.
Don’t forget to pay on time – you’ll accrue penalty fees as well as high interest.
Don’t spend beyond your means. Credit cards are not free money.
If you don’t want to go through a credit check to protect your credit score, there are credit card options available that don’t require credit checks and even offer guaranteed approval. It’s important to note, however, that approval is not always guaranteed even when it’s advertised. Even if you end up being eligible for a secured credit card which requires a deposit, there are options available that help you avoid taking a hit to your credit score.
Frequently asked questions about applying for credit cards without credit check
Yes. Most lenders look unfavourably on multiple credit card applications because it could suggest that you are desperate for credit and therefore could be a risk to them. This is why a “soft inquiry” to check your eligibility for a product is a smart idea.
If you have a history of bad debt or no credit history at all, your application could get rejected. Also, you’re unlikely to be given a card if you’ve ever been declared bankrupt. Each credit application is subject to the issuer’s terms and conditions. These may differ from issuer to issuer.
You can apply for a credit card in about 10-15 minutes online and usually find out within moments if you have been approved. If a provider needs to consider your application further, it may take up to two weeks to receive a response. It’s usually a good idea to do an eligibility check first before making a formal application to determine your chances of approval.
If you’re struggling to find approval for a credit builder card, then consider a prepaid card. This isn’t a credit product, but you can use it like a credit card to pay for purchases in-store and online. It’s easiest to think of it like a gift card which you load with funds before using. There are no interest charges, but many prepaid cards do include admin or load fees.
Chris Lilly is a publisher at finder.com. He's a specialist in credit-based products including business and personal loans, mortgages and credit cards, and is passionate about helping UK consumers make informed decisions about their borrowing. In his spare time Chris likes forcing his kids to exercise more.
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