In most cases you won’t know if you will be accepted for a credit card until you apply – but each application leaves a footprint on your credit file, so applying for various cards at once is not the best option.
To make things more complicated, each provider and card will have its own eligibility factors that are kept secret.
Here we explain how credit card eligibility works and provide tips on what to look out for when comparing credit cards.
Check and improve your credit score
The best rates and offers are usually reserved for customers with the best credit scores. Before you apply for a credit card, it’s worth reviewing your credit score to get an idea of whether your borrowing history will make you attractive to lenders or not.
It’s possible to improve your score overall by making sure you have done simple things like register for the electoral roll or checking your score for any errors. You can also check your report with the three main credit reference agencies. Find out more about how to check your credit score.
What credit card can I get?
Whether you will be accepted for a credit card depends on your personal circumstances and the eligibility criteria set by the lender.
And just because your application is successful, it doesn’t mean you’ll get the advertised rates. That’s because banks are allowed to make an alternative offer when they accept you, as long as at least 51% of successful applicants get the headline rates.
If you have built up a strong credit rating, your choice of credit card will probably be decided by whichever type is best for your lifestyle – but if you’re not sure, use our credit card decision tree to find the most suitable.
Find out your eligibility for each card
Our Eligibility Checker tool is a free credit card checker that allows you to compare cards and see the probability of being accepted.
It’s a great way to see which cards you’re most likely to be successful with – including those where you are sure to be accepted (we call it being ‘pre-approved’) provided you pass the mandatory identity and fraud checks.
MoneySuperMarket data. Correct as of December 2017
How does Eligibility Checker work?
To get an understanding of your eligibility for the credit cards available, you need to provide personal information including your name, your annual income and the name of your bank.
You’ll also be asked to declare your residential status, marital status and address.
If you know which type of card you want to compare, you can select this in the Eligibility Checker process – or you can view all cards and see which ones you’re most likely to be accepted for.
Be careful how often you apply for credit
Making multiple applications will damage your chances of being accepted for a credit card – so make sure you’re careful about how frequently you apply for credit.
If you don’t check your eligibility and end up applying blindly, you could be rejected and you’ll be tempted to make another application. To avoid this, make sure you use Smart Search and get an understanding of the credit cards most likely to say yes.
One thing to keep in mind
While Smart Search is a helpful, free tool for comparing credit cards, it doesn’t guarantee acceptance and should only be used as 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.
Why have I been rejected for a credit card?
You have the right to ask a lender why you have been rejected for a credit card, but this doesn’t always provide useful information. While rejections will be made on a case-by-case basis, there are some common themes.
Most people who have been rejected for a credit card either have one, or a combination, of the following issues on their credit rating: little or no history of borrowing, missed payments, loan defaults, County Court Judgments and/or multiple applications.
Where to next?
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