Meals and eating out are typical credit card purchases

How to get accepted for a credit card

By  , last updated

Whether you are accepted or not for a credit card will primarily depend on your credit score. The best credit card deals – those with the lowest interest rates – are reserved for those with excellent credit scores.

Here we explain how to maximise your chances of your credit card application being accepted, along with tips on what to look out for when taking out a new credit card.

1. Check and improve your credit score 

Lenders, such as banks and building societies, look at a certain criteria when it comes to applications for a credit card, and each will have different requirements. 

The lender will search one or more of the three main credit reference agencies – Experian, Equifax and Call Credit – to see how good you are at managing your finances, including how you repay debts. 

It’s possible to improve your score by doing simple things, such as registering on the electoral roll and regularly checking your report to make sure it does not contain errors. 

By law, lenders (including credit card providers) only need to offer their promoted interest rate to 51% of applicants. The better your credit score is, the more likely it is that you’ll be part of the 51% that gets accepted for the advertised deal. 

2. Be careful how often you apply for credit 

If you have applied for credit, be it a loan, credit card or overdraft, in the past few months and it was declined, there is a possibility that a new application might not be successful. 

You can improve your score by doing simple things, such as registering on the electoral roll and regularly checking your report to make sure there are no errors.

This is because lenders assess your financial behaviour based on your credit report. If they can see you’ve been frequently applying for credit and have been repeatedly turned down, they are unlikely to look upon this favourably as it demonstrates a certain urgency to obtain credit. 

As a rule of thumb try to leave it at least a month or six weeks between applications. 

3. Find out your eligibility for the card  

One of the best ways of checking which credit cards you are most likely to be accepted for is by using MoneySuperMarket’s Smart Search facility.

Smart Search allows you to compare credit cards and provides you with a score on how likely you to get that card, and it does this without leaving a mark on your credit file. 

This is good because multiple searches or applications can have a negative effect on your credit score, and consequently your chances of being accepted for credit in the future.  

How does Smart Search work?

Head to our credit cards channel and click the ‘Find a Card’ button. 

Enter your personal information, including your name, annual income and name of your bank. 

A list of credit cards will pop up with an indication of how likely you are to get accepted for them. This will be expressed as a score out of 10 and is colour-coded red, amber and green. 

We’ve agreed with some card providers to offer ‘pre-approval’ on the Smart Search facility – this is where you’re certain to be accepted for the card in question, subject to certain additional fraud and identity checks.

The Smart Search results will be in order of those where an application is more likely to be successful. However, you can adjust the search bar to sort the results by type of card, such as the longest 0% interest deal, for example. 

One thing to remember… 

While Smart Search is really useful, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get accepted for a card and should only be used an indication. 

Credit card providers such as Capital One, Virgin Money and Barclaycard have signed up for Smart Search and we are continually working on adding more providers. This means the list returned to you won't feature all credit cards that are available on the market – keep that in mind when doing a comparison. 

As long as you bear in mind these points then Smart Search could help find the right credit card for you. 

Where to next? 

Use Smart Search to compare cards 

Easy to get credit cards

The advantages and disadvantages to having a credit card

Find the right card for you with our credit card decision tree

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