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Refused credit

Why was I declined for a credit card?

If you've been turned down for credit there are steps you can take to find out why and help improve your credit score

By Tim Heming

Published: 08 July 2021

Woman looking at bills in kitchen

Ready to find a new card?

Being turned down for a credit card can be frustrating - and worrying  - especially if you’re unsure why you’ve been rejected. Should you reapply for a different card straightaway or try and find out where the problem lies and address it? 


We explain some of the reasons your application might have been unsuccessful and what you can do about it. 

How do lenders decide who is eligible for credit?

When you apply for a credit card, lenders will run a check on your credit rating. Card providers then use your credit score to determine whether they are prepared to accept your application and lend to you – and at what interest rate.

Several factors can affect your credit score, including your payment history, the length of your credit history and whether you’re registered on the electoral roll (this is the list you need to be on to vote in elections).

Other things have an impact, such as how much of your available credit you’re currently using and whether you have made multiple applications for new credit in a short period of time. This can often be a red flag of concern to potential lenders because it looks like you are desperately searching for credit and may not be in a stable financial position.

But try not to get too anxious about the situation. Just because a particular lender turns you down for a credit card doesn't necessarily mean others will. All lenders have their own individual criteria - and some are stricter than others.

Why was I refused credit?

It can be stressful and inconvenient being turned down for credit – particularly if you need the cash for something urgent. But it can help to investigate and find out exactly why you were refused. 

Your credit application may have been rejected due to a range of factors, including:

  • A poor credit rating: If you regularly miss repayments or go over your credit limit, this can have an adverse effect on your credit rating. The lower your credit rating, the more likely you are to be refused credit when you apply

  • A limited credit history: If you haven’t previously taken out credit, or only rarely do so, your credit history will be thin. This means lenders won’t have enough information to judge whether you’d be a good applicant, so they’ll be more likely to reject your application

  • Your employment history: Lenders also consider your employment status and history when making their decision. If you’ve changed jobs frequently or aren’t earning enough, your lender may see you as a higher risk applicant

  • Bankruptcies and CCJs: If you have any bankruptcies or County Court Judgements (CCJs) on your credit file within the last seven years, these will indicate to lenders that you’ve had financial difficulties. Providers could see you as a risky applicant, so you’re likely to be refused credit if you apply

  • Mistakes on your application: Even small mistakes, such as giving the wrong name or address on a credit card application, could be enough for the lender to refuse you credit. This is why it’s so important to thoroughly check your application over before submitting it and request any mistakes be corrected

  • Identity theft: If your credit report is in good shape and your application was in order, you may want to consider the possibility of identity fraud or theft. If you think this may be the case, you should contact your bank or lender as well as Action Fraud, the UK’s National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre

I have an excellent credit score. Why was I refused credit?

If you have a good credit score and have been turned down for credit, it’s worth investigating. Ultimately the lender is the only one to know why your application was declined, but it may be possible to get to the bottom of the problem. There could be a number of reasons why you were refused:

Employment status: It could be that your employment status indicates that you might not meet the lenders’ affordability criteria, perhaps if you’ve changed jobs and the information supplied looks inconsistent. Check if they have a minimum income requirement and that your earnings exceed it.

Application error: If you made an error on your application - and even a small slip can lead to an automatic rejection – this could be the reason for the refusal. 

Financial connections: Another reason might be that you have a financial link to someone who has a poor credit rating. This can lead the provider to see you as more of a risk. You will be linked financially to anyone you share a financial account with – such as a joint bank or credit card account, or a joint loan.

Large debt: You could be turned down if you have a high amount of existing debt even if you have an excellent credit score and no previous problems in repaying any of it.

Will being declined affect my credit score?

Not directly, but it will go down as a hard inquiry and frequent applications can lower your credit score in the short term because each application – whether successful or not – represents a debt that you’ve tried to take on. 

Debt is a risk factor that could affect your ability to make repayments, and the higher the risk the less likely you are to be accepted.

How long does refused credit stay on file?

Two years. All enquiries for credit are removed from credit reports after two years, although credit rating agencies do not record whether an application for credit is refused or accepted.

Should I apply again if I'm rejected?

If your application for a credit card is rejected first check your credit report to see if there is an obvious reason why. 

Where possible take steps to correct any issues, or at least understand why you aren’t likely to be successful until your score improves.

Making more applications and getting further rejections can have a cumulative effect and further damage your credit rating.  

The good news is if you use MoneySuperMarket to apply for a card, our Eligibility Checker tool will show you the cards you’re most likely to be approved for without doing a hard credit check. This means you’ll see what cards you’re most likely to be able to get and protect your credit score.

What steps should I take if I've been refused credit?

You can challenge the decision if you believe your application doesn’t merit a decline. There are also steps you can take to understand why you were refused.

  • Ask your lender: If your application for credit is refused ask the lender why they turned you down and if it was due to your credit report. They should tell you if your report was a factor as well as the agency they used for the information. But they may not give you the full details as to why you were refused credit. This can often come down to their own internal eligibility criteria, which is confidential

  • Correct mistakes on your credit report: Get a copy of your report from the credit agency used by your lender. Check if there are any errors on the report and if there are, let the agency know straight away. Explain why you think there are mistakes, with evidence if possible, and try to address any issues your lender has pointed out

  • Improve your credit score: There are certain actions you can take to strengthen your credit report and rating and make it more likely you’ll be accepted in the future. For more information read our guide to rebuilding your credit score  

How can I improve my chances of being approved for credit?
There are several ways you can increase your chance of being accepted for credit. Some are quick and easy and others may take more time or thought. For example:
  • Fix errors on your credit report

  • Register on the electoral roll

  • Be employed in paid work for a good length of time 

  • Increase your income

  • Don’t miss bill payments

  • Only use a low percentage of the available credit you already have (known as credit utilisation)

  • Build your credit rating with a credit builder credit card

Are there easier credit cards to get approved for?
Yes, a credit builder credit card is designed for people with a low credit rating. They usually offer low credit limits, typically only a few hundred pounds to begin with, and charge higher interest rates. Used responsibly this type of card can help prove your credit-worthiness and raise your credit score. 
Other helpful guides

Can I get a credit card?

How many credit cards can you have?

What affects your credit score


Compare credit builder cards with MoneySuperMarket

If you’re looking for a credit builder credit card, you’ll find great deals by comparing using our eligibility checker. Searching this way won't further harm your score.

Just tell us a little about yourself and your finances, including your income and employment status, and we’ll show you a list of credit cards suited to you.

You’ll be able to sort them by how likely you are to be accepted if you apply. This means you can avoid making too many applications and reduce the risk of being refused for credit and further harming your score. 

Once you’ve found the credit card you want, just click through to the provider to finalise your application. If it’s accepted, your lender will set your credit limit and interest rate, then you’ll receive your card in the post – all you’ll need to do is activate it and it’ll be ready to use.

MoneySuperMarket is a credit broker – this means we’ll show you products offered by lenders. We never take a fee from customers for this service. Instead we are usually paid a fee by the lenders, but the size of that payment doesn’t affect how we show products to customers.