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
What's in this guide?
- Compare the best credit builder credit cards
- More about credit builder cards
- What is the easiest credit card to get with poor credit?
- What credit card can I get to build my credit?
- How are credit builders different to other cards?
- How should I compare credit builder credit cards?
- Are credit builder credit cards a good idea?
- What should I watch out for?
- Frequently asked questions
- Compare credit cards by type or benefit
More about credit builder cards
What is a credit builder card?
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?
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.
How are credit builders different to other cards?
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.
- How much is it going to cost you? Credit card fee structures can be, well, a bit of a minefield. But crucially, if you pay off your balance in full each month and use your card responsibly (stay within your limit, don’t use the card to withdraw cash), you should be able to avoid paying any interest or fees at all, thanks to the grace period on purchases that almost all cards offer. The APR of cards is designed to act as a benchmark for comparison. all issuers have to calculate it in the same way, taking into account the default interest rate plus any mandatory annual/monthly fees.
- Are you eligible? Check any minimum income requirements before you apply. 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. Thankfully pretty much every issuer now offers an “eligibility checker” that you can use to get an indication of how likely you are to get approved before applying. This won’t affect your credit score and can help you compare credit cards by eliminating options that you’re not eligible for.
- Will it help you stay on top of your finances? A good credit builder card should make it easy for you to track and manage your account and manage repayments. That might mean a decent mobile app, text alerts or even visibility of your credit record.
- Are there any perks? Rewards on credit builder credit cards aren’t commonplace, but in some instances the issuer might include basic benefits such as loyalty points on purchases or fee-free spending overseas. Just be wary of building up debt through chasing points – you’ll almost certainly end up paying more in interest than you earn in rewards.
What is APR?Credit card promotions have to include an Annual Percentage Rate (APR), which all card issuers must calculate in the same way. Credit card fee structures can get fiddly, so the APR’s designed to benchmark the yearly cost to borrow, with a view to helping consumers compare cards against each other. It takes into consideration the default interest rate plus any mandatory, regular account fees.
There’s a big catch though: the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) states that this rate must be what 51% (or more) of people accepted for a card receive. That means that up to 49% of those accepted for a credit card may end up paying a higher rate. This is why it’s often called “Typical” or “Representative” APR. When you apply for a credit builder card, you stand a decent chance of getting the advertised rate even if your credit score isn’t great (that’s what they’re for, after all), but there’s no guarantee.
Ultimately the APR is a handy figure to keep in mind… but it isn’t everything. For example, with credit builder credit cards, the APR will be quite high because borrowing with these cards comes really expensive. However, your main focus when you get one should be building up your credit score by paying off your balance in full every month and avoiding borrowing for longer than that. If you stick to this resolution, the APR won’t really impact you.
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.
- 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.
- 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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