Credit building credit cards - similar to ‘bad credit’ credit cards - are designed for people who are new to credit and have a low credit score. Or those looking to improve a previously poor credit history.
By using the card regularly, and not missing or being late with payments, a credit building card lets you demonstrate to future lenders that you are responsible with money.
You could have a poor credit history if you have taken out too many loans and found it hard to repay them or missed payments in the past.
You could also find yourself struggling to take out loans because you have no or little credit history, usually because you have never borrowed in the UK before. You can find out more about getting your first credit card here.
Banks and credit card companies use your credit history to decide if they will lend you money."
Credit builder credit cards can offer the best option for people who need to improve their credit history. People with a poor credit history may be locked out of the best deals from regular credit cards and loans.
Improving your credit score can make these deals available in the future. You may need to improve your credit score for a few reasons.
Problems with debt: You may have previously taken out lots of loans or credit cards and found it hard to pay them back on time. Missed repayments can damage your credit score.
Bankruptcy: If you were in so much debt you were unable to pay it back and went bankrupt, this will harm your credit score. Banks and credit card companies will be hesitant to lend to you.
Unpaid bills: Unpaid bills, for example for mobile phone contracts, can show up as debts on your credit score.
You have a county court judgement (CCJ): You may get a county court judgement or high court judgement against your name if someone takes court action against you saying you owe them money, and you do not respond. If you get a judgement, this means that the court has decided that you owe the money.
You don’t vote: Being on the electoral register allows you to vote but also looks good on your credit file. If you aren’t listed, or haven’t updated the register with your current details, it can harm the credit score banks and credit card companies use to decide if they will lend to you.
No credit history: If you have never borrowed any money you may not have any credit history. Banks and credit card companies are wary of lending to people without a credit history. It is hard for them to tell if you will pay them back.
Credit builder credit cards work by giving you the chance to show a credit card company that you can repay your debts in full and on time. Doing this improves your credit score.
Credit card companies charge higher interest rates on credit builder cards. They also have lower credit limits. This is because they think there is a risk you won’t repay them.
Over time, as you spend and then repay what you owe on the card, your credit score should improve.
In turn, this should mean that banks and lenders will be more willing to offer cheaper credit products.
If you pay what you owe in full every month you'll never be charged interest on your card spending."
Use credit card comparison websites to get the best credit builder credit card offers for you.
Credit building credit cards charge higher interest rates - the annual percentage rate or APR you'll see quoted in the summary box on the card application - than standard credit cards.
So credit building credit cards will never be the cheapest cards on the market. But it's worth shopping around to find the lowest APR offers for you.
Don’t apply for lots of credit builder credit cards at one time. Every application goes on your credit history and can harm your credit rating.
Different credit builder cards offer different rewards or services. Compare the APR first to find the cheapest credit card for you, then look at the extras.
For example, some credit builder credit cards let you track your credit score so you can see it improve. Others have an app that breaks down your spending patterns.
Ask credit card companies for a 'soft search' first to see if you are likely to be accepted. If they refuse, consider applying elsewhere."
Source: Defaqto and Uswitch data, correct as of December 19, 2022
Credit builder cards often don’t offer a lot of features or add-ons. So when comparing credit builder cards, the three things you want to focus on are:
Minimum credit limit
Maximum credit limit
While credit builder cards charge much higher interest rates, if you pay off your balance in full each month, you won’t be charged any interest. This can be easier to do because credit builder cards have much lower credit limits. typically ranging from £50 to £1,500.
It’s important to keep up with repayments, as even missing a single payment can damage your credit score further, which defeats the purpose of getting a credit builder card in the first place.
Paying your credit card and other bills in full each month looks good on your credit report. It shows you can be responsible with money.
If you can’t pay back the full amount on your credit card every month, at least be sure to pay the minimum on time.
Make sure you have some bills in your name at your current address, for example gas and electric bills. If you live in a shared house this can be tricky.
Having just one bill, like broadband, in your name will help. Paying bills in your name adds to your credit history in a good way that shows you can stick to financial commitments.
Banks and credit card companies check your credit history before lending to you.
Being on the electoral register will help them confirm your name and address, so your rating will improve. Remember to update your address details on the electoral register when you move home.
Put simply, no.
Every time you apply for credit in the UK, the company you apply with is required to run a credit check.
If it didn't, people could apply for a dozen cards at once and potentially get all of them - giving them a massive and, in lenders' views, inappropriate amount of credit available to them.
But while you can't apply for a card without a credit check being carried out, you can find out how likely you are to get one before applying.
Eligibility checkers, like our card finder tool above, use something called a "soft search" to check out your credit score.
This isn't visible to other lenders and means you can check to see if your credit score is good enough for each card before you apply.
Every formal application for credit results in a credit check being carried out."
Credit scores tend to change fairly slowly over time, and if you have very bad credit, it can be years before your file is in good shape. However, there are a few quick wins that will improve your score:
Register on the electoral roll if you haven’t already and ensure your address is correct
Check all details are correct on your credit file, and close old accounts, especially if they are linked to ex-partners etc who may have their own credit issues
Reduce your debts
Pay all financial responsibilities on time
Don’t apply for any more credit
Your card provider decides your credit limit after looking at your finances, but cards for bad credit usually offer lower limits - typically between £50 and £1,500.
It's important to apply for the right credit card for your credit rating. If you apply for a credit card that's not suited to your financial situation, the lender might reject your application.
Too many applications for credit in a short space of time can make you look desperate for cash and affect your chances of getting accepted in the future.
You can check how likely you are to get a card before you apply using our eligibility checker.
The eligibility checker works by running a soft credit check. This means you can check your eligibility without impacting your credit rating.
Yes, if you misuse the card.
If you go over your credit limit, miss repayments, build up too much debt or default on the card, this would hurt your score.
Provided you make payments on time, however, and stick to your credit limit, your credit score should improve.
There are a fair few alternatives to credit building credit cards - each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
If you need money, then bad credit loans, secured loans, guarantor loans, credit union loans or budgeting loans might all work for you.
If you're simply trying to build up your credit score before applying for something like a mortgage or car loan, then services like Loqbox - which let you build your credit score while saving money - might be an option too.
When we use the term ‘most popular or ‘popularity’ on Uswitch in reference to credit cards, these cards are ranked by the number of clicks they have received on the site in the past 30 days.
The most clicked on cards are at the top, with the least at the bottom. This reflects how popular they are with visitors to Uswitch.com. Consequently, this is a good table to look at if you’re interested in seeing which cards most people think are worth getting.
We compare over 100 credit cards from all of the major banks and credit card providers.
However, we do not compare all the credit cards that are available in the UK.
This is because some credit card providers have offers that are only available exclusively through their own website or branch, or through other comparison websites - in the same way some credit cards are exclusively available through Uswitch.
There are also many credit cards that are only available to people in member organisations and clubs.
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