Compare credit builder cards and build or rebuild a positive credit history

Having bad or limited credit doesn't necessarily mean credit cards are off the table. Find out how credit builder cards work, how to choose the right one and how to get approved.

Close-up of young man looking at smartphone and credit card simultaneously

Your credit score makes is one of the main factors that determines whether you get approved for credit and the terms you’re offered. Bad credit can reduce your chances of getting vital finance, like a mortgage, car finance or a credit card.

The good news is that there’s a whole growing niche of cards designed for those with less than perfect credit records, that help you build up or restore your credit history while you spend. Expect low, personalised opening credit limits and higher-than-average, personalised interest rates, in return for more lenient eligibility criteria.

Compare the best credit builder credit cards

Comparison ordered by representative APR with affiliated products shown first.
Updated July 23rd, 2019
Name Product Annual/monthly fees Min. credit limit Max credit limit Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
24.7%
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 24.7% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.7% APR (variable).
£0
£500
Subject to status: £1,500
24.9%
No fees for making purchases or withdrawing cash abroad – currencies are converted at the standard Mastercard exchange rate.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
29.3%
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 29.3% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.3% APR (variable).
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
29.8%
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 29.84% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
£0
£100
Subject to status: £600
34.9%
Earn Asda vouchers every time you shop - 1% cashback on all Asda spend, 0.2% on all other transactions. Once £2.5 is earnt a voucher can be downloaded to spend in Asda stores.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34.9% APR (variable).
£0
£150
Subject to status: £1,000
39.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 39.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 39.9% APR (variable).
£0
£250
Subject to status
27.5%
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).
£14 per month. Customer with a card credit limit of £1200: £14 per month. Customer with a card credit limit of £225: £8 per month. Customer with a card credit limit of £250: £3 per month
£225
Subject to status: £1,200
28.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 0% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £14 per month. Customer with a card credit limit of £1200: £14 per month. Customer with a card credit limit of £225: £8 per month. Customer with a card credit limit of £250: £3 per month, your representative rate is 28.9% APR (variable).

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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.

More about credit builder cards

What is a credit builder card?

A credit builder card is a credit card that’s specifically designed for people whose credit score is low, and who might struggle to get approval for finance through mainstream channels.

These cards are also seen as entry-level credit, and a stepping stone to credit products with better rates. If you’ve never borrowed or taken out a loan (perhaps if you’re young and new to the world of credit cards), your credit record is likely to be pretty non-existent, and it can be difficult to get the all-clear on a card or loan application. Lenders have no credit history to analyse and don’t know if they can take the risk in giving you credit. In this situation, a credit builder credit card will help you to build a credit history from scratch.

Some card issuers like Vanquis and aqua specialise in credit builders, and offer a whole range of cards for this market, while the big household names like Barclaycard or Tesco Bank are more likely to have just the one card in their range that would be considered a credit builder.

What is the easiest credit card to get with poor credit?

All card issuers have their own criteria for evaluating applications, but they’ll all consider more than just your credit score. Affordability is as important, if not more so, for example. The good news is that almost all card issuers now let you check your likelihood of approval before you submit an application – saving you time and protecting your credit score from further harm (full applications involve a “hard” credit search and have a slight negative effect on your score).

You should compare cards from a range of issuers before using an eligibility checker, and you may opt to focus on companies like Vanquis, Tandem or aqua which offer multiple cards to cater to a wide range of credit profiles.

What credit card can I get to build my credit?

Used correctly, almost any credit card should build your credit, but “Credit builder” cards are designed with exactly this purpose in mind. These cards are usually easier to get approved for, but come with lower, personalised credit limits and higher, personalised interest rates.

How are credit builders different to other cards?

The features on a credit builder credit card will be similar to that of a standard credit card, but with some key differences:

  • Higher, personalised interest rates. All card issuers have to declare the “APR” (Annual Percentage Rate) of their cards. This can be a handy benchmark, but it’s crucial to understand that not everybody who’s offered the card will get this rate. In the vast majority of cases, rates are tailored to the applicant – i.e., the riskier a lender thinks you are, the higher the rate they’ll offer you. In fact, the advertised representative APR only has to be given to 51% of cardholders. The APR on credit builder cards (typically around 27% and up) is higher than on standard credit cards (typically around 18-22%), to compensate for the higher risks that card issuers are taking on.
  • Lower, personalised credit limits. Your credit limit is the maximum balance amount you’re allowed to be in debt on your credit card at any one time. This personalised limit will be offered by the card issuer and will be dependent on factors like your income, outgoings and credit score. To protect credit providers and reduce the consequences in case of a default (that’s a failure to repay), the credit limit on a credit builder card will usually start low – anywhere between £100 and £1,000. The good news is that it’s often possible to have your limit reviewed within a few months of careful card use (staying within your limit and making repayments on time).
  • Fewer account fees. While some credit cards come with a flat annual or monthly fee as well as charging interest, it’s very rare to see card issuers charging monthly or annual account fees in the credit builder space. 118 118 Money is the exception to this rule, however.
  • Fewer frills. Typically, a credit builder credit card won’t come with much in the way of bonuses or extras. Since the main purpose of these cards is to build up your credit score, they shouldn’t be complicated products (which, sadly, plenty of credit cards are). Some providers do offer a short 0% period or a basic rewards point scheme, but this isn’t common.
  • Tools to help you build your credit. Card issuers want you to make your payments on time, and, if they offer a range of cards, might expect you to move across to a different card as your credit score improves. To help you along this journey, your credit builder might come with features like access to your credit record (through companies like Noddle or Experian), text or email alerts when a payment is due or when you’re close to your limit, an app to manage your account on the move and/or specialised information and advice.

How should I compare credit builder credit cards?

Using a credit builder credit card to improve your credit score is a serious decision. To make sure you are choosing the right option for you, there are a few aspects to consider.

  • Know the fees and rates. The fee structure on a credit card will give you a good indication if you are able to afford the line of credit. This includes the APR on outstanding balances as well as the mandatory annual fees.
    There are also circumstantial fees to keep in mind that apply in certain situations, like cash withdrawal fees, late payment fees and overseas transaction fees.
  • Look out for benefits. Rewards on credit builder credit cards are not common but in some instances the issuer might include basic benefits such as 0% purchase periods and cashback.
    You can save money on interest and fees by choosing a card that has benefits, as long as you stay within the credit limits and pay off the balance in full every month.
  • Likelihood of getting approved. The last thing you want to do is to keep applying for credit cards when you keep getting rejected. This will damage your credit score even further and make it more difficult to get credit in the future. There’s often an eligibility calculator that you can use to give you an indication of how likely you are to get approved before applying. This will not affect your credit score and can help you compare credit cards by eliminating options that you are not eligible for.

What is APR?

Credit card interest rates are usually advertised based on the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) that applies to the account. The APR is essentially the yearly cost to borrow. It is an industry standard term which all lenders must calculate in the same way.

APR can be a useful benchmark for consumers comparing credit cards, as it also takes into consideration any mandatory fees on the account.

However, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) states that this rate must be what 51 percent (or more) of people accepted for a card receive. This means that up to 49% of those accepted for a credit card will end up paying a higher rate. That’s why it’s often called “Typical” or “Representative” APR. It’s also important to remember that high fees can be offset by significant perks. A very premium card with a high annual fee is likely to have a high APR (as the APR takes into account the interest rate and the fees), but will also have some tasty benefits for the user.

Are credit builder credit cards a good idea?

It helps to look at both the positives and the negatives when deciding if a credit builder credit card is a good option for your current situation.

Pros

  • Build your credit score. The main benefit of this type of card is the ability to restore or build your credit score while making purchases with it.
  • Get access to credit. A credit builder credit card is an entry level option that will give you access to credit, especially when you’ve been refused elsewhere.
  • Get interest free days. Almost all credit cards come with up to 55 or 56 days of 0% interest on purchases, provided you clear your balance in full each month. That means that, although credit builders have relatively high rates, you could potentially avoid paying interest altogether. Crucially, cash advances (withdrawing cash) won’t benefit from this feature.
  • Enjoy other standard benefits of credit card ownership. Having a credit card when travelling is much safer than carrying around cash and is often required for certain services like hiring a car. It also provides protection when lost or stolen as you can easily cancel it to prevent fraudulent transactions.
Cons

  • Unfavourable terms. To protect card issuers against the risk of the loan, a credit builder credit card will often come with high interest rates and low credit limits.
  • Low limits. If you’re approved for a credit builder, you’re likely to start off with a low limit. These limits are tailored to the individual, but can be reviewed periodically.
  • Limited rewards. Although some providers do offer 0% purchase periods or rewards, you are unlikely to get more lucrative rewards like air miles or perks like complimentary travel insurance.

What should I watch out for?

  • Never miss your minimum repayments. This will result in additional fees and charges and damage your credit score even further. It’s always better to repay the full amount every month to prove to lenders you can effectively manage your debt.
  • Avoid withdrawing cash. Cash withdrawals on any credit card are expensive. The rates on credit builder credit cards are likely to be even higher. If you regularly withdraw cash it might signal to card providers that you are cash strapped and they could refuse you credit going forward.
  • If you are rejected, wait before applying for another card. Every time you get rejected for a credit card application, your credit score is impacted. It’s best to take a step back and find out why you were rejected before continuing.

Frequently asked questions

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*Disclaimer: The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products whose details Finder has access to track; they don't represent all the products available in the market. Unless indicated otherwise, products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations) are not product ratings and are subject to our terms of use. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.

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