What do I need to consider before applying for a credit card?
Before you apply for a credit card, there are some factors you’ll need to consider to make sure it’s the right choice for you. Here’s what you’ll need to think about before applying:
The type of card to suit your needs: Are you after a credit card to build your credit score? Or a balance transfer card? You’ll need to decide what you need the card to do and target the most appropriate deals
Eligibility criteria: Most lenders will have an eligibility criteria. This means, for example, that for most credit cards you’ll need to be aged 18 or over (for some cards you’ll need to be aged 21 or over) and live in the UK. Some providers won’t accept you if you have any County Court Judgements (CCJs) against you, or have been bankrupt in the recent past
Minimum repayments: All credit cards have a minimum monthly repayment, which you’ll be required to make on your account. Fail to meet this minimum and you could be hit with penalty fees. Work out exactly what you’ll need to pay back each month based on your spending, so you know you’ll be able to afford your repayments
Your credit score: Get a free copy of your credit file and check your credit rating before you apply – your credit card application could be rejected because of errors on your credit report. You may also be able to take steps to improve your credit score before you apply to increase your chances of getting the best deal
How do I apply for a credit card?
Applying for a card is easy, but you’ll need to follow a few straightforward steps, including:
Decide on the right credit card for you: You could be looking to consolidate your existing debt with a balance transfer card or spread the cost of a large purchase with a 0% purchase card. Decide on the type of credit card that will best suit your needs.
Check your credit score: Getting your credit score into the best possible shape can help your credit card application by proving to lenders that you’re a responsible borrower. Why not check out our free credit monitor tool for tips on how to nurture your score?
Work out if you’re eligible: Before you make your application, you can work out which credit cards you’re most likely to be accepted for by using our eligibility checker tool. This can show you your chances of being accepted for different cards so you can apply in greater confidence.
Watch out for the interest rate: Keep in mind you might not get the advertised annual percentage rate – known as the APR - and you may be offered a shorter 0% interest period than advertised, when it comes to purchase or balance transfer deals. The rate and deal you’re offered will usually depend on your credit score.
Ready to apply: Once you’ve compared deals through us, using the eligiblity checker, and made your decision, you can apply online.
Our guide on how to apply for a credit card explains the credit card application process in more detail.
How long does a credit card application take?
When it comes to applying for a credit card, how long your application will take to be approved will depend on several factors, including your credit history and the lender’s eligibility criteria.
It will also depend on how you apply. For example, when you apply for a credit card online, it could take a matter of minutes for your application to be completed. In contrast, if you apply for a credit card over the phone, in a bank branch or by post the process is likely to take longer.
To help speed up the application process, make sure you have the following information to hand:
Proof of ID
Details of annual income
Can I speed up the process of getting a credit card?
Applying for a credit card online, rather than through the post, is the easiest way to speed up the process. It means you aren’t reliant on the postman, or on the credit card company’s application processing department to review your application once it arrives.
However, there are other ways you can speed up the process of getting a credit card. The biggest factor in deciding whether you’ll be approved for a card is your credit history. So, if you need to build up your credit score you should aim to do this first – before applying for a new credit card.
You can check your credit file and score for free before you apply. Remember to check for any errors, and if you notice any mistakes on your credit file aim to get them resolved before you apply for a credit card. You can usually get mistakes corrected by contacting the relevant lender direct.
How long will my credit card take to arrive if I am accepted?
Once you’ve been approved for a credit card, it’s likely to take a maximum of around two weeks to get to you in the post - although this will depend on your lender.
Can I get instant approval on a credit card?
When you compare credit cards with MoneySuperMarket, you’ll usually know within a few minutes of finishing the search whether or not you’ve likely to be accepted – this is known as ‘instant approval.’ But ultimately, approval for any credit card will depend on your credit score and how well you’ve managed your borrowing in the past – and you won’t know the lender’s final decision until you apply for the card.
The better you’ve managed your debts, repaying on time and not over-extending with your borrowing – the higher your credit score is likely to be and the more likely you are to be approved for the best credit card deals.
While there’s no credit card that will be guaranteed to approve any applicant, there are ways to increase your chances of being accepted, usually by strengthening your credit score.
Keen to improve your chances of being accepted for a credit card? Take a look at our guide to guaranteed approval.
What happens if my application is declined?
If your credit card application is rejected this can be both frustrating and worrying, especially if you’re not sure why you were declined.
There could be several reasons why your credit application was refused. You might have no credit history so lenders will have no proof of how you manage credit, or you could have CCJs or a bankruptcy within the last seven years, which indicates to lenders that you’ve had debt problems in the past. It is a good idea to investigate and find out why you were declined so you can work on strengthening your application for next time.
For more information on why your credit card application was declined, take a look at our guide on refused credit.
Other useful guides
For more information on credit card applications and how to find the right credit card for you, take a look at some of our similar guides:
Compare credit cards with MoneySuperMarket
It’s easy to find the right credit card for you when you compare with us. All you need to do is tell us a little about yourself and your finances, as well as what you want to use the new card for, and we’ll give you a list of deals tailored to your needs, all usually within minutes.
You can filter and compare cards by their APR, any benefits or incentives, and how likely you are to get the card if you apply. This way you can reduce the risk of being refused credit, keeping your credit score in better shape.
Once you’ve chosen a card click through to the provider to complete the process and apply. If the provider accepts your application, they’ll set your credit limit and interest rate, and once you get the card in the post you’ll just need to activate it and it’ll be ready to use.
Remember the rate advertised on the credit card may not be the one you get. This is because the APR only has to be offered to 51% of successful applicants. Your actual rate could be higher and will reflect your credit history and finances.