Being declined for a credit card can reduce your chances of getting a different card in the future.
So it’s important to only apply for credit cards you have a good chance of being offered – sometimes known as “guaranteed credit cards”.
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.
What is a guaranteed credit card?
There are no credit cards that offer a 100% guarantee you’ll be accepted as a customer. If you’re sent a “guaranteed credit 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.
However, there are some credit cards you’re more likely to get, even if you have a low credit score. With the MoneySuperMarket Eligibility Checker, you can see which cards you’re more likely to be eligible for before you apply – reducing the risk of being declined and damaging your credit score. The service makes it easy to compare cards by showing you the “guaranteed rate” you’ll pay if your application is accepted.
How do banks decide who to accept for a credit card?
Banks and building societies want to lend money to people they think will pay them back, so they look at various criteria to decide how likely this is in your case. If, for example, you have no regular income, or a very low salary, the lender will worry about you having enough money to meet your repayments.
The same is true if your credit report, or file, shows you have a history of failing to repay your debts. That’s why you’re less likely to get a credit card if your credit report shows you:
- Often pay bills and debt repayments after the due date
- Have a County Court Judgment (CCJ) or a bankruptcy on your file
Lots of credit applications can also damage your chances of getting a credit card. That’s because each time you apply for a credit card, the provider runs a “hard” search on your credit report, and too many of these suggest you’re struggling to manage your finances.
Other reasons you might be refused a credit card include if you’ve never had credit in your name before – for example because you’ve just turned 18 or have only 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.
What is my credit score?
Your credit score is the value of your credit report. It’s based on a points system that awards and deducts points depending what your credit report says. 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 very high credit score – say 680 out of 710 – you’ll have a better chance of getting a market-leading credit cards with very low interest rates. If you have a lower credit score of say 400 out of 710, you’re more likely to qualify for cards with higher interest rates.
How can I find out which credit cards I can get?
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 qualify for is to use the MoneySuperMarket Eligibility Checker. All you have to do is provide:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your income
- Your marital status
- Your residential status
The service will conduct a “soft” 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.
What credit cards am I more likely to get with bad credit?
You’ll only usually qualify for the credit cards with the lowest interest rates if you have a high credit score. But there are lots of credit cards aimed at people with lower credit scores.
Credit cards for people with low credit scores include:
- Credit builder credit cards: Credit builder credit cards often come with low credit limits and have high interest rates, so it’s best to pay them off in full each month
- Pre-paid cards: Pre-paid cards generally come with fees and only allow you to spend as much as you’ve loaded on to the card, but can be a handy alternative to paying in cash
Using a bad credit credit card responsibly can be a good way to improve your credit score so you can qualify for a better credit card in the future. Our figures show 11% of people who compare credit cards with MoneySuperMarket are looking for a card to help them build up their credit rating.*
*According to data collected by MoneySuperMarket, accurate as of August 2020
How can I improve my chances of getting a credit card?
The best way to improve your chances of getting a credit card is to increase your credit score. Ways to do this include:
- Checking your credit report before applying for credit to avoid damaging it with rejected applications
- Reducing the balances on any overdrafts or credit cards you already have to bring down your “credit utilisation ratio”
- Registering to vote, as this helps lenders confirm your name and address via the electoral roll
- Paying your bills on time – for everything from your mobile phone to your council tax
- Taking out a credit builder credit card and paying it off in full every month
What are the alternatives to a credit card?
There are some alternatives to taking out a credit card, but the best option for you will depend how much money you need to borrow and for how long.
- Overdrafts often have high interest rates, but they can be a useful way to borrow money for a short time. Some bank accounts even offer 0% overdrafts to new customers for a limited time - but be sure you stay within your arranged overdraft limit, as the charges for unauthorised overdrafts can be huge
- Loans are a good way to borrow larger amounts over a set period. They usually have lower interest rates than credit cards
- You can also use a pre-paid card like a credit card, although you’ll only be able to spend as much as you’ve loaded on to the card
Compare credit cards with MoneySuperMarket
If you’re looking for a credit card, comparing deals on MoneySuperMarket is an easy way to find a card that’s right for you. All you need to do is tell us a little 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 their interest rates, any included incentives and your likelihood of you being approved. Thanks to MoneySuperMarket’s eligibility checker, you can reduce the risk of having your application for credit 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.