When you need to borrow money – perhaps for a large purchase or in an emergency, such as car repairs or a broken boiler – you might be worried about applying for a credit card, in case your application is declined.
Many people experience difficulties getting a new card because they have a less than perfect credit score. The situation can then get worse if you’re declined for a card and then immediately try to apply for another – as this activity can cause a further dip in your credit score.
You can avoid this spiral by only applying for credit cards you know you’ll have a good chance of getting. These are sometimes called ‘guaranteed credit cards’ - although this is a slightly misleading term.
While ‘guaranteed credit cards’ are those you’re likely to be accepted for, all credit card providers check your credit profile before making a final decision.
This guide explains how lenders decide who to offer credit cards to and how to find out what credit cards you’re more likely to get before you apply.
There are no credit cards that offer a 100% guarantee you’ll be accepted. If you’re sent a card offer that says you have “guaranteed approval” it will be based on what the lender already knows about you – for example because it’s your main bank or current account provider. But even these offers involve extra checks that could result in your application being declined.
There are some credit cards you’re more likely to get even if you have a low credit score. And with our eligibility checker you can see which cards you’re more likely to be accepted for before you apply. This is good because it reduces the risk you’ll be declined, which could harm your credit score.
The eligibility checker service makes it easy to compare cards and empowers you with information that shows you the ‘guaranteed rate’ you’d pay if your application is successful. This way you can make an informed decision.
Banks, building societies and card providers look at a range of factors, such as income and credit history, when deciding whether or not to lend.
If you have no regular income or a very low salary, for example, the lender may worry about you having enough money to meet your card repayments. The same is true if your credit file shows you might have had some problems in the past, such as missing payments. That’s why you’re less likely to get a credit card if your credit report shows you:
Lots of credit applications in a short space of time can also affect your chances of getting a credit card. Every time you apply for a credit card, the lender will run a “hard” search on your credit report and too many of these searches suggests you’re struggling to find credit and manage your finances.
There are other reasons why you might be refused a credit card – even without a history of repayment problems. You may never have had credit in your name before, perhaps because you are young or have recently arrived in the UK.
If you’re under 18 you’re highly unlikely to be accepted for a credit card of any kind – even a guaranteed acceptance credit card.
Your credit score is a numerical value based on your credit report and credit-worthiness. It’s based on a points system that awards and deducts points depending on the payment information in your credit report. When you use the MoneySuperMarket Credit Monitor to check your credit report for free, the score you see will be out of a maximum of 710.
If you have a high credit score – from 680 out of 710 – you’ll have a better chance of getting a market-leading credit card with the lowest interest rates. If you have a lower credit score, around 400 out of 710, you’re more likely to qualify for cards with higher interest rates.
Checking your credit score is a good first step to working out what credit cards you’re likely to be offered. But the easiest way to see which credit cards you’re likely to get is to use the MoneySuperMarket eligibility checker. All you have to do is provide:
The service will conduct a ‘soft’ credit search on your credit report, which reveals the necessary information but – crucially – does not show up on your file. It then shows you a list of participating credit cards with the ‘guaranteed rate’ you’ll pay if your application is accepted.
It’s not a guarantee you’ll be accepted, but it does indicate you have a high chance of success based on the information you’ve provided.
While you’ll usually need a good or excellent credit score to be accepted for the best card deals, there are cards aimed at people with lower credit scores. They can help you access small amounts of credit and start to rebuild your credit score.
The cards are called credit builder credit cards. They typically have low credit limits, such as a few hundred pounds, and have high interest rates - so it’s best to pay them off in full each month if you can so the interest doesn’t build up. But used correctly they can put you on a path to a higher credit score and better value cards and loans.
An alternative to a credit card is a prepaid card. Prepaid cards generally come with fees and only allow you to spend as much as you’ve loaded on to the card. But they can be a handy alternative to paying in cash. They won’t help you improve your credit score as you’re not borrowing so transactions aren’t reported on your credit file.
Responsible use of a credit card for bad credit can be a good way to improve your credit score so you can qualify for a better card deals. Our figures show 17% of people who compare credit cards with MoneySuperMarket are looking for a card to help them boost their credit rating.*
*According to data collected by MoneySuperMarket, accurate as of June 2021
If you want to apply for a credit card check your credit report first.
This gives you a chance to look for mistakes that might need to be corrected and see your credit rating. You can also avoid lowering the score through rejected card applications.
The best way to improve your chance of getting a credit card is to protect and increase your credit score. Ways to help do this include:
There are some alternatives to taking out a credit card, but the best option for you will depend on how much you need to borrow and for how long.
It’s quick and easy to compare credit cards with us. All you need to do is tell us about yourself, your financial status, and what you’d like to use your new credit card for, and we’ll show you a list of cards tailored to your needs.
You’ll be able to sort them by interest rates, any included incentives and your likelihood of being approved. Our useful eligibility checker tool means you can reduce the risk of your application for credit being refused.
Once you’ve found the card you want just click through to the provider to finalise your application. If it’s accepted, your provider will send you the card through the post as well as letting you know your credit limit and interest rate – remember the advertised rate may not be the one you get, as it only has to be offered to 51% of successful applicants.
Once you have your card, you just need to activate it and it will be ready to use.
MoneySuperMarket is a credit broker not a lender. You must be 18 or over and a UK resident.