How to get a credit card as a new UK resident

If you’ve recently moved to the UK you might find it harder to get a credit card. But there are options available.

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If you’re new to the UK, you won’t have a credit history which means lenders have no way of assessing how reliable you are as a borrower. Even if you had a healthy credit report back in your home country, this won’t transfer across to the UK, meaning you’ll need to start over. This also means getting a credit card can prove tricky.

How to get a credit card if you’re new to the UK

No matter how good or bad your credit score was back home, when you move to the UK, you’ll be starting from scratch. To be able to access the best rates on financial products like credit cards, loans and mortgages, you’ll need to build your credit history in the UK.

To help you do this, there are a number of steps you can take:

  • Establish a fixed address. When first arriving in the UK, many people stay with friends or find temporary accommodation. However, it’s important to try and move to a fixed address as soon as you can. Lenders like stability so if you can find a more permanent home, this will get you off to a good start.
  • Get on the electoral roll. This helps lenders confirm your name and address, which will also help your credit score. You can register on the electoral roll as long as you have a UK address and you are a citizen of the UK or Ireland, the Commonwealth or the EU. Citizens of China and the US cannot register.
  • Open a UK bank account. If you have an account back home with a bank that has branches in the UK, see whether you can activate this account in the UK before you arrive. If you can’t, you’ll need to apply for a bank account once you arrive in the UK and you’ll be asked to provide identification, such as your passport, and proof of address, such as a recent bill. Note that some digital-only banks, such as Monese, will set up a UK account for you without requiring proof of residency.
  • Pay bills on time. If you can, get your name on household bills such as energy bills and make sure you pay them on time by direct debit. This will help to show lenders you are financially responsible. Getting a mobile phone contract can also help your credit score as it’s a form of credit.
  • Get a job. Having a stable job and a regular income will also help increase your chances of getting accepted for credit.

Credit card eligibility criteria for new residents

To be eligible for a credit card, you will usually need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years old (this age limit can be higher for some cards)
  • Be a UK resident, with proof of a permanent address
  • Be earning a certain amount of income

However, even if you do meet this criteria, this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be accepted for a credit card.

Finding the right credit card for you

When you apply for a credit card, the lender will carry out a credit check to see how reliable you are as a borrower. If your credit score is low or you have little to no credit history, your application is more likely to be rejected.

Fortunately, there are credit cards that are designed specifically for those with poor credit scores and no credit history. These are known as credit builder credit cards and, as the name suggests, they are designed to help you build your credit score.

However, you’ll need to be aware that credit builder cards tend to have high rates of interest, so you’ll need to try to pay off your balance in full every single month. Credit builder cards also tend to have low credit limits, although this can increase over time.

Provided you stay within your credit limit and make your repayments on time each month, a credit builder credit card can help you to improve your credit score. This means that you should later be able to apply for more competitive deals.

Before applying for a credit card it is sensible to use an online eligibility checker as this will show you the cards you’re more likely to get accepted for without hurting your credit score.

Name Product Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Minimum income Representative APR Incentive Link
Tesco Bank Foundation Card
Min. limit £100, max. limit not specified.
Collect 1 Tesco Clubcard point per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 Clubcard point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco in each purchase transaction.  Must have available credit to collect Clubcard points. Clubcard points are turned into Clubcard vouchers every 3 months or sooner using Faster Vouchers. Clubcard vouchers can be used in Tesco or with Clubcard Reward Partners to get even more value on dining out, hotel stays and travel.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.542% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.5% APR (variable).
TSB Classic Credit Card Mastercard
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
Not specified
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.9% APR (variable).
The Credit Thing card
Min. limit £200, max. limit £1,500.
Not specified
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.9% APR (variable).
Keebo credit card
Finder Award
Keebo credit card
Min. limit £200, max. limit £5,000.
Not specified
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.98% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.98% APR (variable).
Vanquis Bank Chrome Credit Card
Min. limit £250, max. limit £1,500.
Not specified
Representative example: When you spend £250 at a purchase rate of 29.5% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.5% APR (variable).

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What if you’ve had an extended leave from the UK?

If you leave the UK for an extended period of time, your credit rating won’t go with you. Instead, your credit score will drop and the longer you’re away, the lower it will go. This means that when you return to the UK you will have to start from scratch.

For this reason, if you’re planning to return to the UK to stay at some point, it can be a good idea to keep some of your bank and credit card accounts open and active. Just remember to keep an eye out for fraudulent transactions and any fees or interest that may be charged.

Also keep in mind that you must repay any debts before you leave the UK – if you don’t, this will have a negative impact on your credit score and could result in you being issued with a County Court Judgment (CCJ).

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