You have to apply for any form of credit and there is no guarantee your application will be accepted. But there are online tools that can check your eligibility for credit before you apply, so you can choose to apply to lenders that are more likely to accept you.
An eligibility, pre-application or soft credit check is an online tool that will tell you your chances of being accepted for credit cards, without impacting your credit score.
You will normally need to provide a few personal details (typically name, address history and employment status) and it will score your chances of successfully applying for one or many credit cards.
Usually your chances of acceptance are given as a fraction or a percentage, the higher this number the more likely you are to be accepted, but the scoring system can vary between different websites so it's worth reading the small print. The Uswitch eligibility checker uses a percentage system.
There is no guarantee you will get a credit card if you apply for it. If you make too many applications for credit cards, or your application is rejected, it will negatively affect your credit score.
Your credit score is used by lenders to determine whether you are eligible for credit, having a good credit score gives you access to the best deals and lowest interest rates for credit cards, loans and mortgages.
An eligibility checker can reduce the risk of damaging your credit score, by giving you the knowledge of which credit cards you have a higher chance of being accepted for.
A eligibility checker uses the information you provide to run a ‘soft’ credit check. This will provide an estimate the likelihood of you being accepted for a credit card.
Most credit eligibility checking tools are in some way affiliated with or 'powered' by credit referencing agencies or their subsidiaries (in essence Experian, Equifax, Callcredit).
The tool will take information you provide to look up your credit profile. It will then cross reference this profile with the acceptance criteria of different credit cards.
However, depending on the eligibility checker, it may not have access to the acceptance criteria of all cards on the market so some cards may appear as 'not rated'. This does not mean you won't be able to successfully apply for this card, just that it's not possible to estimate the likelihood of you being accepted.
While an eligibility check will look at your credit profile, this examination won’t be flagged on your credit report as an application to borrow, meaning it won't be visible to lenders.
A credit check is when you apply for any form of credit, this will be marked on your credit file for lenders to see, whether your application was successful or not.
But note that a soft credit check only provides an estimate of your eligibility for a credit card and is not a guarantee acceptance or rejection. Even if you get a 100% chance of acceptance, or you are 'pre-approved' for a card, a full credit check will still need to occur before you are given a card.
A credit card eligibility check may show up on your credit report as an information request, but as explained above it will not be flagged as an application for credit.
This means that you can check your eligibility for credit cards as many times as you like and it won't damage your score.
You will normally need to provide your name and address, this information is used to verify your identity and match it up to your credit file.
Typically you'll need to provide least three years of UK address history in order to qualify for most credit cards, but there might be a few available if you can't provide this.
Credit card lenders care about the security of your income as they want to make sure you can repay what you borrow, so any eligibility checker will probably need to check your employment status and salary too. Some cards also have minimum income requirements, so to avoid an inaccurate eligibility estimate.