Credit cards for the self-employed

If you're a sole trader, self-employed or a freelancer, a credit card can help you deal with those months when you have expenses to pay but not much money coming in.

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If you’re self-employed, a credit card can help you better manage your expenses. Use our table below to find the cards you’re eligible for, based on card type.

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Name Product Purchases Annual/monthly fees Representative APR Link Incentive Representative example
M&S Bank Credit Card Purchase Plus Offer Mastercard
0% for 20 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
Check eligibility
1 point per £1 spent with M&S and 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere. Enjoy 55 days interest free, preferential rates plus no cash advance fee when buying M&S travel money with the card.
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).
M&S Bank Credit Card Transfer Plus Offer Mastercard
0% for 3 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
Check eligibility
1 point per £1 spent with M&S and 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere. Enjoy 55 days interest free, preferential rates plus no cash advance fee when buying M&S travel money with the card.
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).
Santander All in One Credit Card
0% for 15 months reverting to 23.9%
£3 per month
29.8% APR (variable)
Check eligibility
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. Maximum of £10 cashback paid per month. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
Amex® Cashback Everyday Credit Card
31%
£0
31% APR (variable)
Check eligibility
Welcome offer: Get 5% cashback on your purchases (up to £100) for the first 3 months of Cardmembership. Terms and minimum spend apply. 18+, subject to status.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 31% APR (variable).
Royal Bank of Scotland Reward Credit Card
25.9%
£24 per annum. Reward Current Account holders: £0 per annum
31% APR (variable)
Go to site
Earn 1% back at supermarkets and 0.25% back everywhere else, including supermarket petrol stations. At selected retailers, you could earn 1-15% back.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 25.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £24 per annum. Reward Current Account holders: £0 per annum, your representative rate is 31% APR (variable).
British Airways American Express® Credit Card
31%
£0
31% APR (variable)
Check eligibility
Earn 5,000 points when you spend £1,000 within 3 months of account opening. Terms apply. UK 18+, subject to status. Earn 1 Avios for virtually every £1 spent.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 31% APR (variable).
NatWest Reward Credit Card
25.9%
£24 per annum. Reward Current Account holders: £0 per annum
31% APR (variable)
Go to site
You'll earn 1% back at supermarkets and 0.25% back everywhere else, including supermarket petrol stations. At selected retailers, you could earn 1-15% back.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 25.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £24 per annum. Reward Current Account holders: £0 per annum, your representative rate is 31% APR (variable).
American Express® Rewards Credit Card
31%
£0
31% APR (variable)
Check eligibility
Earn 1 Membership Rewards® point for every £1 spent thereafter. Earn up to 90,000 bonus points per year through refer a friend, 4,000 points awarded for every friend approved. 1 point = 0.45p (min 1,000 points) to shop, other rewards have differing conversions.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 31% APR (variable).
Amex® Cashback Credit Card
31%
£25 per annum
36.7% APR (variable)
Check eligibility
Welcome offer: Get 5% cashback on your purchases (up to £125) for the first 3 months of Cardmembership. Terms apply. Spend £0 to £10,000 and receive 0.75% cashback on all purchases. Spend over £10,000 and receive 1.25% cashback on purchases.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £25 per annum, your representative rate is 36.7% APR (variable).
American Express® Nectar Credit Card
31%
Year 1 - £0, Year 2 onwards - £30 per annum
37.8% APR (variable)
Check eligibility
New welcome offer: Earn 20,000 bonus Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in your first 3 months. Earn a minimum of 3 Nectar points for virtually every £1 spent at Nectar partners, and 2 Nectar points for virtually every £1 spent elsewhere.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a. with a fee of Year 1 - £0, Year 2 onwards - £30 per annum, your representative rate is 37.8% APR (variable).
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Name Product Finder score Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Minimum income Representative APR Incentive Link
Additional account needed
HSBC Student Credit Card Visa
3.5
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £500.
Not specified
18.9%
Available alongside an HSBC Student Account (receive £100 and a 1-year subscription to Headspace when you open a new student account).
Representative example: When you spend £500 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
Go to site
Barclaycard Forward Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £50, max. limit £1,200.
£3000
33.9%
Rate discounts: 3% interest rate reduction if you make all your repayments on time for the first year, and a further drop of up to 2% more if you continue to do so in the second year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 33.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 33.9% APR (variable).
Go to site
118 118 Money Guaranteed Rate Card
3.5
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
£8400
34%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
Zable credit card
3.5
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £200, max. limit £1,500.
£9,600
48.9%
Representative example: Representative 48.9% APR (variable). Based on assumed borrowing of £1200. Rate of interest 48.9% (variable) annual.
Check eligibility
Additional account needed
AIB Student Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
Not specified
12.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.2% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
Additional account needed
TSB Student Credit Card
3.5
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit £1,000.
Not specified
21.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 21.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).
Sainsbury's Bank Everyday Credit Card Mastercard
4.0
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
Not specified
29.4%
3 Nectar points per £2 spent in Sainsbury's, Argos, Habitat and Tu clothing, and 1 Nectar point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 1 point = 0.5p (min 500pts)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.4% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.4% APR (variable).
Tymit Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit £15,000.
Not specified
29.9%
Representative Example: 29.9% (variable) based on a borrowing of £1200 over 12 months with no annual fee.
Tesco Bank Foundation Card
4.0
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £100, max. limit not specified.
£5000
29.9%
5 points per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco. Must have available credit to earn points. Points are converted to Tesco vouchers or can be exchanged for Partner rewards to receive money off a variety of restaurants, entertainment or Avios points.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.9% APR (variable).
Bip Credit Card Mastercard
4.0
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
£5000
29.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.9% APR (variable).
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Name Product Finder score Finder score Purchases Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Representative APR Incentive Link
British Airways American Express® Premium Plus Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
31%
£300 per annum
Min. limit £700, max. limit not specified.
139.9% APR (variable)
Welcome offer: Earn 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend £3,000 in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Terms apply. 18+, subject to status. New Cardmembers only.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31.0% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £300 per annum, your representative rate is 139.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
British Airways American Express® Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
31%
£0
Min. limit £700, max. limit not specified.
31% APR (variable)
Earn 5,000 points when you spend £1,000 within 3 months of account opening. Terms apply. UK 18+, subject to status. Earn 1 Avios for virtually every £1 spent.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 31% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 31% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
Virgin Money Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
26.9%
£160 per annum
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
69.7% APR (variable)
Earn 15,000 bonus points with your first card purchase made within 90 days of account opening. Earn 1.5 Flying Club miles for every £1 spend and 3 miles for every £1 spend with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays. Spend £10K a year on your card and choose an extra benefit - an upgrade to Premium, or a Companion ticket. Points value varies dependent on reward (min 3000pts)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 26.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £160 per annum, your representative rate is 69.7% APR (variable).
Virgin Money Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
26.9%
£0
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
26.9% APR (variable)
Earn 0.75 Flying Club miles for every £1 spend and 1.5.miles for every £1 spend with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays. Spend £20K a year on your card and choose an extra benefit - an upgrade to Premium, or a Companion ticket. Points value varies dependent on reward (min 3000pts)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 26.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 26.9% APR (variable).
Barclaycard Avios Plus Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
29.9%
£20 per month
Min. limit £50, max. limit not specified.
80.1% APR (variable)
Earn 25,000 Avios when £3,000 spent on card over the first 3 months of opening. Earn 1.5 Avios for every £1 you spend. Spend £10,000 or more during the year and receive a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher to use on an Avios Reward Flight booking, or 7,000 bonus Avios. Avios value varies dependent on reward (min 1,000pts for flights)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £20 per month, your representative rate is 80.1% APR (variable).
Lloyds Bank World Elite Mastercard
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
22.94%
£15 per month
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
55% APR (variable)
0.5% on £1 to £15000 of yearly spend. 1% after £15001 of yearly spend. Cashback paid Anniversary into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.94% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £15 per month, your representative rate is 55% APR (variable).
Halifax World Elite Mastercard
4.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
22.94%
£15 per month
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
55% APR (variable)
0.5% on £1 to £15000 of yearly spend. 1% after £15001 of yearly spend. Cashback paid Anniversary into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.94% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £15 per month, your representative rate is 55% APR (variable).
Barclaycard Avios Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
29.9%
£0
Min. limit £50, max. limit not specified.
29.9% APR (variable)
Earn 5,000 Avios when £1,000 spent on card over the first 3 months of opening. Earn 1 Avios for every £1 you spend. Spend £20,000 or more during the year and receive a British Airways cabin upgrade voucher to use on an Avios Reward Flight booking, or 7,000 bonus Avios. Avios value varies dependent on reward (min 1,000pts for flights)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.9% APR (variable).
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Name Product Finder score Purchases Balance transfers Annual/monthly fees Representative APR Incentive Link
M&S Bank Credit Card Purchase Plus Offer Mastercard
Not yet rated
0% for 20 months reverting to 24.9%
0% for 12 months
(0% fee)
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
1 point per £1 spent with M&S and 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere. Enjoy 55 days interest free, preferential rates plus no cash advance fee when buying M&S travel money with the card.
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).
Check eligibility
Royal Bank of Scotland Purchase & Balance Transfer Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
0% for 19 months reverting to 24.9%
0% for 19 months
(2.99% fee)
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
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).
Go to site
NatWest Purchase & Balance Transfer Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
0% for 19 months reverting to 24.9%
0% for 19 months
(2.99% fee)
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
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).
Go to site
HSBC Purchase Plus Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
0% for 18 months reverting to 24.9%
0% for 16 months
(3.49%, min £5 fee)
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
Discounts and exclusive offers for dining experiences, leisure activities and shopping available through HSBC Home and Away.
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). You might get different interest rates and promotional periods to those shown here, because these depend on your circumstances.
Check eligibility
Santander All in One Credit Card
4.5
★★★★★
0% for 15 months reverting to 23.9%
0% for 15 months
(0% fee)
£3 per month
29.8% APR (variable)
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. Maximum of £10 cashback paid per month. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
Tesco Bank Clubcard Plus Credit Card Mastercard
4.5
★★★★★
0% for 24 months reverting to 19.94%
21.81%
(3.99% fee)
£7.99 per month
37.7% APR (variable)
5 points per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco. Must have available credit to earn points. Points are converted to Tesco vouchers or can be exchanged for Partner rewards to receive money off a variety of restaurants, entertainment or Avios points.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.94% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £7.99 per month, your representative rate is 37.7% APR (variable).
MBNA 0% Transfer and Purchase Credit Card
3.5
★★★★★
0% for 21 months reverting to 24.94%
0% for 21 months
(3.49% fee)
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
Earn up to 15% cashback on purchases through Smart Rewards at popular retailers.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).
Barclaycard Platinum all-rounder Visa
4.0
★★★★★
0% for 21 months reverting to 24.9%
0% for 20 months
(2.99% fee)
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive pre-sale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices.
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).
Lloyds Bank Platinum 0% Purchase and Balance Transfer Credit Card Mastercard
4.0
★★★★★
0% for 20 months reverting to 24.94%
0% for 18 months
(2.99% fee)
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).
Ulster Bank Purchase & Balance Transfer Credit Card Mastercard
3.5
★★★★★
0% for 19 months reverting to 24.9%
0% for 19 months
(2.99% fee)
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
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).
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Name Product Finder score Finder score Balance transfers Balance transfer fee Purchases Annual/monthly fees Representative APR Incentive Link
Santander Everyday Long Term Balance Transfer Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 26 months reverting to 23.9%
3% (min. £5)
0% for 3 months reverting to 23.9%
£0
23.9% APR (variable)
Sign up for Santander Boosts to receive cashback, vouchers, offers and prize draws from selected retailers.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 23.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
Royal Bank of Scotland Longer Balance Transfer Credit Card
3.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 23 months reverting to 24.9%
3.49%
0% for 3 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
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).
Go to site
Royal Bank of Scotland Purchase & Balance Transfer Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 19 months reverting to 24.9%
2.99%
0% for 19 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
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).
Go to site
NatWest Longer Balance Transfer Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 23 months reverting to 24.9%
3.49%
0% for 3 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
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).
Go to site
M&S Bank Credit Card Purchase Plus Offer Mastercard
Not yet rated
Not yet rated
0% for 12 months reverting to 24.9%
0%
0% for 20 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
1 point per £1 spent with M&S and 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere. Enjoy 55 days interest free, preferential rates plus no cash advance fee when buying M&S travel money with the card.
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).
Check eligibility
HSBC Purchase Plus Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 16 months reverting to 24.9%
3.49%, min £5
0% for 18 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
Discounts and exclusive offers for dining experiences, leisure activities and shopping available through HSBC Home and Away.
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). You might get different interest rates and promotional periods to those shown here, because these depend on your circumstances.
Check eligibility
NatWest Balance Transfer Credit Card
3.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 13 months reverting to 24.9%
0%
0% for 3 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
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).
Go to site
HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 26 months reverting to 24.9%
3.49% fee, min £5
0% for 3 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
Discounts and exclusive offers for dining experiences, leisure activities and shopping available through HSBC Home and Away.
When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable). You might get different interest rates and promotional periods to those shown here, because these depend on your circumstances.
Check eligibility
NatWest Purchase & Balance Transfer Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 19 months reverting to 24.9%
2.99%
0% for 19 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
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).
Go to site
M&S Bank Credit Card Transfer Plus Offer Mastercard
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 26 months reverting to 24.9%
3.49%, min £5
0% for 3 months reverting to 24.9%
£0
24.9% APR (variable)
1 point per £1 spent with M&S and 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere. Enjoy 55 days interest free, preferential rates plus no cash advance fee when buying M&S travel money with the card.
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).
Check eligibility
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Can I get a credit card if I’m self-employed?

Yes, and being self-employed in itself won’t necessarily impact your chances of being approved for a credit card. If you’ve been in business for a while, have a regular cashflow and a good credit score, you’ll probably be eligible to apply for most credit cards on the market.

However, working for yourself normally means irregular earnings and a lack of stability – two things lenders usually aren’t a big fan of. That means that your first credit card could be harder to land, especially if you’ve only been working for yourself for a short time.

The good news is, almost all card issuers now offer an eligibility checker, so you can find out your chances of getting approved before you apply (and without hurting your credit score). You may find that you stand a good chance of getting approved for the card(s) that you’re after, but that you’re offered a different rate to the advertised representative APR – which card issuers are only obliged to award to 51% of their customers.

You should do all you can to look improve your credit score and be even more careful with providing accurate information and documents to prove how much money you make (and how much you can realistically afford to borrow).

Credit card jargon explained

  • APR. The annual percentage rate (APR) is designed to be a benchmark for consumers, providing an annual summary of the cost of your card. As well as the interest, the APR also takes into account any compulsory charges – like an account fee (if there is one). However, crucially, providers only have to award the advertised APR to 51% of those who take out the credit card – the other 49% could be offered a different (higher) rate, at the provider’s discretion. That’s why it’s often referred to as the representative APR.
  • Credit card balance. This refers to the amount of credit you have currently used, and need to repay. Most credit cards have a monthly balance cycle, which means you’ll be charged interest if you don’t pay off your balance each month.
  • Interest rate.This is a percentage amount that you’re charged on any outstanding card balance, and can be either a fixed or variable rate.

Is getting a credit card a good idea if I’m self-employed?

Being self-employed requires a series of impressive skills – one of which is a very solid ability to manage and organise your finances, right down to the last penny.

When it comes to business expenses, there’s clearly an advantage to using a dedicated card on a dedicated account – which will make your accounting much easier than if you were to mix your personal and business expenses. And opting for a credit card can boost your spending power and potentially even earn you some rewards along the way.

Image of a person using a laptop alongside the stat: 2 in 5 credit card holders used their card more in lockdown than they did before March 2020.

How can I boost my chances of getting approved for a credit card as a self-employed individual?

Unfortunately, there’s no secret recipe that gets self-employed people (or anyone else, for that matter) approved for a credit card. But there are some good practices you should follow:

  1. Check your credit score and try to improve it. The three main credit reference agencies in the UK – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – all let you see your credit score for free, although they’ll charge for full credit reports. It’s a good idea to learn your credit situation. Some providers will tell you which kind of credit rating a card requires, so your credit score can help you narrow your search. Also, if your credit score turns out lower than you expected, you can then purchase the full report, check it for mistakes and get in touch with the agency to correct them.
  2. Compare credit cards accordingly. If your credit score isn’t perfect, there’s no point in applying for a card that requires an excellent rating. Be realistic.
  3. Use an eligibility checker. Most credit card issuers offer a service that tells you how likely your application is to be accepted before you actually apply. Use it – it won’t harm your credit score.
  4. Don’t apply for many credit cards in a short period of time. Multiple applications could give lenders the impression you’re in desperate need of credit, plus it could hurt your credit score. If you’ve been refused once, take your time to regroup and do your research before applying for a different card.

This is what you can do in the short term, that is, if you need a credit card right now.

However, being self-employed, it’s also a good idea to plan for the long term. If you don’t necessarily need credit right now, but have no credit history in the UK, keep in mind that you’ll probably need it at some point, maybe in the form of a mortgage for your house or a loan to refurbish your office.

So give yourself an early start, for example, by getting a credit card for people with limited/bad credit. Only use a small portion of your credit limit and pay off your credit card bill in full every month. Most cards on the market won’t charge you a penny of interest provided you clear your balance each month. By the time you actually need money, your good credit score will hopefully allow you to get a competitive card or loan without too many difficulties, even if you’re a freelancer.

Will it cost me more because I’m self-employed?

It might. Don’t forget that the APR (annual percentage rate) you see on lenders’ websites is representative. That means that at least 51% of the people who get that credit card will get that interest rate, not that everyone will get it. You may be offered a higher interest rate if your irregular earnings make you look like a risky lender. Credit limits (that’s the maximum you’ll be able to borrow using the card) are also tailored to the individual. If you’re just starting out, you might be offered a relatively low limit initially.

However, this doesn’t automatically translate to a higher cost. With almost all credit cards, when the bill is paid off in full every month, the interest rate isn’t really an issue, because it won’t be charged. If you do that and also pick a credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee, the whole thing could come in at no cost to you.

Credit card cost comparison

Credit card limit: £2,000

  • Outstanding balance: £1,000
  • Interest rate: 19.9%
  • Monthly repayment: £25
  • Total interest: £555

Credit card limit: £2,000

  • Outstanding balance: £1,000
  • Interest rate: 29.3%
  • Monthly repayment: £25
  • Total interest: £1,345

My application has been refused. What are the alternatives?

Like we said, don’t panic, and regroup instead of applying for another card straight away. Here are a bunch of alternative products you might be interested in:

  • A credit builder credit card. These have a higher APR, lower credit limits and no annual fees, and are specifically meant to help people build their credit score. Learn more about them and compare deals on our dedicated page.
  • A personal loan. If you need quite a bit of credit and not just for everyday spending, consider a personal loan. Yes, we have a guide to personal loans for the self-employed too.
  • A credit-building tool. Although these won’t help if you need credit immediately, services like LOQBOX allow you to put aside money and improve your credit score at the same time, which can be a good bet in the long term. Our LOQBOX review explains how it all works.

Bottom line

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s impossible to get a credit card just because you’re self-employed or a freelancer. On the contrary, if you’ve been your own boss for at least two years, have regular money coming in and a decent credit rating, you may find you can take your pick from what’s out there.

However, if you’ve only just started working for yourself and your credit rating could be better, lenders might be a little more cautious of you.

Check your credit rating and look for ways of improving it. Then make full use of the eligibility checker that many credit card companies will offer. You’ll be able to get instant decisions, which shouldn’t harm your credit rating further.

Make sure you check the lenders eligibility criteria before you apply. Some credit card providers exclude those who are sole traders, freelancers and self-employed.

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables is provided by Moneyfacts.

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