“Guaranteed approval” credit cards explained

When a credit card provider promises guaranteed approval or says you're pre-approved, it usually means you have a very strong chance of getting the card if you do decide to apply.

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Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Annual/monthly fees Min credit limit Max credit limit Minimum income Rep. APR Incentive Link
Vanquis Bank Chrome Credit Card 24.7pc Visa
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
Not specified
24.7%
Stay in control of your account with online servicing, a mobile app, SMS and email alerts.
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).
More Info
TSB Classic Credit Card Mastercard
£0
£500
Not specified
Not specified
26.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 26.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 26.9% APR (variable).
More Info
Tesco Bank Foundation Card
£0
£100
Subject to status
£5000
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).
More Info
Vanquis Bank Chrome Card 29.3pc Visa
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
Not specified
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).
More Info
Vanquis Bank Aquis Visa
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
Not specified
29.8%
You could get a credit limit increase after your 5th statement and further increases every 5 months, up to £4,000.
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).
More Info
Barclaycard Forward Credit Card Visa
£0
£50
Subject to status: £1,200
£3000
33.9%
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 33.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 33.9% APR (variable).
More Info
118 118 Money Guaranteed Rate Card
£0
£500
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).
More Info
aqua Advance Mastercard
£0
£250
Not specified
Not specified
34.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34.9% APR (variable).
More Info
Capital One Classic Mastercard
£0
£200
Subject to status: £1,500
Not specified
34.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34.9% APR (variable).
More Info
Fluid Mastercard
£0
£300
Not specified
Not specified
34.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34.9% APR (variable).
More Info
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Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Balance transfers Balance transfer fee Purchases Annual/monthly fees Rep. APR Incentive Link
M&S Bank Transfer Plus Mastercard
0% for 28 months reverting to 19.9%
2.85% (min. £5)
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
More Info
M&S Bank Shopping Plus Mastercard
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
More Info
HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card
0% for 25 months reverting to 21.9%
1.5% (min. £5)
0% for 3 months reverting to 21.9%
£0
21.9% (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 21.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
More Info
HSBC Purchase Plus Credit Card Visa
0% for 18 months reverting to 22.9%
2.9% (min. £5) for transfers in first 60 days
0% for 18 months reverting to 22.9%
£0
22.9% (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 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
More Info
first direct Credit Card Visa
0% for 27 months reverting to 18.9%
2.29% (min. £5) for 3 months reverting to 2.9% (min. £5)
18.9%
£0
18.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
More Info
HSBC Premier Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
1.4% (min. £5)
0% for 9 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
18.9% (variable)
A selection of rewards from a range of partners. Earn 1 point for every £1 spent within the UK and earn 2 points for every £1 spent outside the UK. Points can be redeemed for shopping vouchers and frequent flyer miles.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
More Info
John Lewis and Waitrose Partnership Mastercard
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 9 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
18.9% (variable)
Earn 1.25 points for every £1 spent in store or online at John Lewis, Waitrose and John Lewis Insurance. Earn 1 Point for every £4 spent elsewhere. Vouchers issued once customer reaches 500 points in Feb, Jun or Oct when vouchers are automatically issued to customers. Every 500 points is worth £5.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
More Info
Santander Everyday Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
0% for 18 months reverting to 3% (min. £5)
0% for 3 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
18.9% (variable)
Retailer offers - 5 Welcome offers of up to 25% cashback at well-known retailers (must switch on Retailer Offers within 60 days of activating card).
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
More Info
TSB Platinum Balance Transfer Card
0% for 29 months reverting to 19.95%
2.95% for 3 months reverting to 3%
0% for 3 months reverting to 19.95%
£0
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a rate of 19.95% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable).
More Info
NatWest Longer Balance Transfer Credit Card Mastercard
NatWest Longer Balance Transfer Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 23 months reverting to 19.9%
1.99%
0% for 3 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
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Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Purchases Balance transfers Annual/monthly fees Rep. APR Incentive Link
M&S Bank Shopping Plus Mastercard
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 20 months
(2.9% fee)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
More Info
HSBC Purchase Plus Credit Card Visa
0% for 18 months reverting to 22.9%
0% for 18 months
(2.9% fee)
£0
22.9% (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 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
More Info
M&S Bank Transfer Plus Mastercard
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 28 months
(2.85% fee)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
More Info
M&S Bank Reward Plus Mastercard
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 6 months
(2.9% fee)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Double points on spend in M&S for first 12 months (2 points per £1). Then earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
More Info
Santander All in One Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 26 months reverting to 15.9%
0% for 26 months
(0% fee)
£3 per month
21.7% (variable)
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. 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 15.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 21.7% APR (variable).
More Info
Tesco Bank Clubcard Plus Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 24 months reverting to 19.944%
21.814%
(3.99% fee)
£7.99 per month
37.7% (variable)
1 point per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco, must have available credit to earn points. Card can also be used as a Clubcard to collect standard points at 1 point per £1 spent on shopping and 1 point per £2 spent on fuel. Points are converted to Tesco vouchers which can be used towards shopping or exchanged for Partner Rewards.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.944% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £7.99 per month, your representative rate is 37.7% APR (variable).
More Info
Sainsbury's Bank Dual Offer Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 20 months reverting to 20.95%
0% for 20 months
(3% fee)
£0
20.9% (variable)
Earn 750 bonus Nectar points each time £35 or more spent on Sainsbury's shopping, up to ten times in your first 2 months, up to a total of 7,500 points, offer available for new customers. Earn 2 Nectar points per £1 spent on Sainsbury's shopping and fuel. Earn 1 Nectar point for every £5 spent elsewhere.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 20.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 20.9% APR (variable).
More Info
TSB Platinum Purchase Card
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.95%
0% for 20 months
(2.95% fee)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a rate of 19.95% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable).
More Info
Santander World Elite Mastercard
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
0% for 18 months
(0% fee)
£15 per month
49.8% (variable)
0.5% on £1 to £3000 of monthly spend. Maximum of £15 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 18.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £15 per month, your representative rate is 49.8% APR (variable).
More Info
Barclaycard Platinum 18 Month 0% Purchase and Balance Transfer Visa
0% for 18 months reverting to 21.9%
0% for 18 months
(2.9% fee)
£0
21.9% (variable)
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive presale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).
More Info
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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.

What does “guaranteed approval” mean?

When you’re told that you’re guaranteed or pre-approved, it’s based on what the card issuer knows about your circumstances. This could be from an existing relationship you have with it – perhaps it’s the bank you have your current account with – or perhaps you’ve used an eligibility checking service, which runs a “soft search” of your credit file (that’s a search that doesn’t affect your credit score and isn’t visible to others).

If you receive a “guaranteed credit card” or “pre-approved” offer online or in the post, the credit card provider is likely to have selected your details from its database, perhaps from a previous application or an old credit card. Alternatively, it may have bought your customer details from a third party. Under GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), companies that store your data must obtain your consent before selling your details to a third party (you may have “opted-in” at an earlier date).

Ultimately, these credit card providers are using the words “guaranteed approval” or “pre-approved” to attract new customers. After all, nobody likes getting rejected. These terms can give you a strong indication as to your likelihood of getting that final green light, but there are always final checks required – and a minority of applications will fall down at this final hurdle.

The providers will be basing their “guaranteed credit card” offers on the limited information they have about you, so they may not have your current, full financial picture. They could also be basing their offer on out-of-date information and your credit score could have significantly changed since then. This means that while you may have been eligible for a credit card in the past, you would not be approved based on your current credit score or financial situation.

If you do have bad credit, then all’s not lost because there’s a growing number of cards specifically designed for lower credit scores, but you should run an up-to-date eligibility check before you hit “apply”.

How can you really be approved for a credit card?

You can only be approved for a credit card if you go through the application process and meet the provider’s criteria. This cannot be done on your behalf without your consent.

Before you apply for a credit card, it’s good practice to perform an eligibility check. This is classed as a “soft or smart search” on your credit report, which doesn’t affect your score and gives you an idea of your chances of success in being approved and your likely credit limit and interest rate. When you make an application for credit (e.g. credit card, mortgage or personal loan), the lender performs what is called a “hard search“, which does impact on your credit history.

Lenders can’t perform a search on your credit history without your consent. If you see searches on your credit record that you don’t recognise, you can query these with the credit reference agency.

What criteria do I need to be approved for a credit card?

Card issuers generally state the minimum criteria you’ll need to meet in order to be able to apply – UK resident, over 18, and so on. Card issuers that specialise in bad credit will have a fairly short list, while the most premium cards might have super-high minimum income requirements or might require you to be an existing customer.

Minimum credit card requirements usually include:

  • You’re aged 18 or over
  • You have a permanent UK address
  • You have a current UK bank account
  • You haven’t got any bankruptcy proceedings against you
  • You haven’t received any recent county court judgements (CCJ) against you

But as well as this there’s the behind-the-scenes evaluation of your circumstance which card issuers are less upfront about. This will involve looking at your credit report and analysing your income and spending habits.

But the most important factor is whether or not the credit would be affordable. Any card issuer will need to see that you have a clear source of income and that it’s sufficient to cover the potential debt that a credit card would let you get into.

Credit card application tips

I’ve got bad credit, but have been “pre-approved”

If you know you’ve got a poor credit history, you may have been pleasantly surprised to receive a credit card offer in the post or online telling you you’ve been “pre-approved”.

Bad credit is a once-overlooked segment of the market that is now served by a number of banks and specialist lenders. But it’s still wise to be cautious and explore all your options first. Firstly, the card issuer is making you an offer based on limited information they have about your credit report. If you make an application, which will allow them to access your full report, it’s possible it could change its mind about offering you a card. Alternatively, it may offer you a different card product than the original one marketed to you.

The credit card it offers you may not be the best deal for your financial circumstances. Customers with poor credit scores can be offered credit cards with low limits and incredibly high interest. It’s always better to research what else is out there before deciding on a credit card which best suits your needs.

I’ve been rejected for a credit card. How can I improve my credit score?

If you have no credit history or a poor credit score, you could struggle to be approved for mainstream credit cards. From the perspective of the credit card company, a low credit score suggests you may be a higher risk of failing to make your repayments.

One way to improve your credit score over time is by opening a credit builder card. These cards typically have low credit limits, high interest rates and little rewards, but allow you to boost your credit report by making regular monthly payments. As your credit score improves over time, you may be able to progress to more mainstream credit cards with more attractive interest rates and rewards.

Credit cards for people with poor credit

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 acceptance and how to manage your credit card once you have it.

Do
  • Use the eligibility check first before applying (even if you’ve received a pre-approved or guaranteed offer of a credit card).
  • Register on the electoral roll at your address if you haven’t already. This usually increases your credit score.
  • 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
  • Don’t blindly accept whatever credit card you’re offered. Research the best credit card for your needs.
  • Don’t make multiple credit card applications at once.
  • Don’t forget to pay on time – you’ll accrue penalty fees as well as high interest and could also lose any introductory offers, such as 0% interest, you may have.
  • Don’t spend beyond your means.
  • Don’t withdraw cash on a credit card. This is treated as a cash advance and usually accrues interest immediately.

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