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How to apply for a credit card

Adding a credit card to your wallet can be handy – for use in an emergency, say, or simply a way to build up your credit history.

There is a huge array of options on the market, depending on what you plan to use the card for. For example, you may want a card with a particular reward scheme, such as percentage cashback on purchases you make on the card, or one that offers a 0% period on purchases if you’re planning to buy an expensive item.

So it’s vital to first assess what you need the card for, and from there use a comparison site such as MoneySupermarket.com to find the best option for you.

However, try to avoid simply applying for a card without being sure it’s the one you want, as this will leave a print on your credit file, and if the provider rejects your application this risks making harder to get accepted by others.

When you apply for a card all providers use a ‘score’ to assess your suitability, so they will do a search on your credit history to see if you’re a suitable candidate.

Check your credit history

Before applying, it is worth checking your credit history with a credit reference agency like Experian, as if it’s tarnished for whatever reason, this will affect a credit card application.

However, there are options available for all types borrowers, so in this case you could opt for a credit builder card, specifically aimed at those with no or poor credit history. But beware – these come with hefty interest rates and particularly low credit limits, and it’s vital to pay off the balance in full each month to avoid significant interest charges on debt.

If you're not on the electoral roll, you could find it very difficult to get credit. So when your local authority contacts you about this during the year, asking you to ensure that anyone eligible to vote in your household is on the electoral roll, make sure you’ve signed up.

When you’re ready to apply

Once you are ready to apply, go to a comparison site in order to find the best deal before making a credit card application. This way you’ll be able to see the full range of different cards, and the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision.

With some companies you can apply using a direct mail pack, over the phone or even through direct promotion – for example, at a stand at an airport, shopping centre, or event.

When you apply for a card all providers use a ‘score’ to assess your suitability, so they will do a search on your credit history to see if you’re a suitable candidate.

You can also go direct to your bank, although the best deals these days are normally online so check the internet first to see what’s on offer.

Complete your details as honestly and thoroughly as possible. If you’re declined, then it could be worth getting a copy of your credit file to find out why, and consider alternative options.

Alternatively, if it’s good news simply sit back and wait for your card to arrive.

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