Approval for any credit card will depend on your status. The APR shown represents the interest rate offered to most successful applicants. Depending on your personal circumstances the APR you're offered may be higher, or you may not be offered credit at all. Fees and rates are subject to change without notice. It's always wise to check the terms of any deal before you borrow.
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Can I get a credit card with no credit check?
Some countries offer credit cards without a credit check (such as secured cards in the US which require you to put down a deposit), but in the UK it’s not possible to get a credit card without one.
But although having a poor credit history will reduce your choices, there are still plenty of cards that cater to people with bad credit. In fact, some card issuers focus exclusively on this section of the market. If you have a low credit score, a “credit builder credit card” can be easier to get approved for than more mainstream cards.
You can now almost always find out if you’re eligible instantly and without affecting your credit score. If you give them permission, card issuers will run a “soft” search of your credit file so that you can find out if it’s worth your while applying, and then if you decide to go ahead and apply, they’ll run a full credit search.
What is bad credit?
Your credit report is a detailed record of your financial history, which lenders use to decide whether to offer you credit. Your credit history is stored by credit reference agencies, the biggest in the UK being Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (formerly Callcredit).
You can get your credit score for free on numerous websites. However, you may need to pay to get your full credit report from one of the agencies. Depending on your score, you’re said to have excellent, good, fair, poor or very poor credit:
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What are hard and soft credit checks?
Before applying for a credit card, it’s important to distinguish between a “soft” and a “hard” 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” search because it doesn’t impact your credit report.
However, making a formal application involves the lender doing a “hard” search on your credit history, which usually has a slight negative effect on your credit score. Regardless of whether your application is a success, if a potential lender sees a lot of hard searches on your report in a small space of time, this could suggest you are struggling to find credit and could put lenders off.
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 good place to start. While the interest rates are high and the credit limit is low, you can enjoy some of the benefits of credit card ownership while you build up your score with regular payments.
Unlike many mainstream credit cards that have introductory interest-free offers or reward bonuses, credit builder cards usually offer a standard interest rate from the get go. There are usually few benefits or rewards. These cards are designed to act as a stepping stone to better credit cards as your score improves over time.
Alternatively, if you’re struggling to find approval for a credit builder, 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.
Tips for applying
While each lender’s criteria on deciding whether to lend money is different, there are some general things you can do to increase your chances of approval.
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.
- Use the eligibility check first before applying.
- Pay off your full balance every month to avoid high interest charges.
- Look out for annual or monthly fees or any other charges.
- Use a credit card for a large purchase. If something goes wrong with the item or the retailer goes bust, you are protected by Section 75 and are usually entitled to a refund. If you paid on a debit card, you would have little to no protection.
- Don’t forget to pay on time – you’ll accrue penalty fees as well as high interest.
- Don’t make multiple credit card applications at once.
- Don’t spend beyond your means. Credit cards are not free money.
- Don’t withdraw cash on a credit card. This is treated as a cash advance and usually accrues interest immediately.
Frequently asked questions
How different factors affect your credit score
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