Applying for a credit card will leave a mark on your credit report, so it’s important to check if you can get a credit card in the first place
Although many people wonder, “Can I get a credit card?” the question does not have a definitive answer. Unfortunately, the easiest way of finding out the answer is to go ahead and apply for a credit card.
However, doing so will leave a mark on your credit report, so if your credit card application gets declined, that will also show up on your credit report.
If you’ve applied for many credit cards in quick succession over a short period of time, that will also be apparent to anyone viewing your credit report, and is likely to give the impression that you are desperate for credit.
Who sees my credit report?
Understanding your credit report and score is important in helping you get a credit card. Your credit report, along with a few other factors, is what all lenders will use to determine whether or not to approve your credit card application.
Your credit report can be accessed via any of the three credit reference agencies: Experian, Call Credit and Equifax.
Banks and other lenders will check your credit report through one of these companies and here they will be able to see your history of financial repayments, applications and if you are registered on the electoral roll at your address.
Your credit score will tally together all of these factors, including any missed payments, defaults and County Court Judgments (CCJs).
Each credit reference agency has their own scoring system, so your score at Equifax might be different to your score at Experian, plus not all of them have access to all of the same information, so although it’s not that common, some of your history may be missing from one of the credit reference agency’s reports.
Do I need to look at my credit report?
Checking your credit report and score is important, not only to get a better idea of what credit cards you can apply for, but also to check for mistakes that might be affecting your score.
Many of the credit reference agencies and the smaller companies who use their system to give you access to your credit report offer free trials, making it simple to take a quick look at your records.
|30 day free trial|
£14.99 a month
|Freephone UK call-centre|
Email & SMS alerts
|30 day free trial|
£7.99 a month
|Three credit agency checks|
Debt advice centre
Identity theft protection
|£19.99||One off credit report check|
No monthly subscription
|30 day free trial|
£7.99 a month
|Unlimited credit report access|
Alerts and tools
Support to improve credit rating
|7 day free trial|
£14.99 per month
|Daily web monitoring|
Instant identity notifications
Unlimited credit report access
|30 day free trial|
£14.95 a month
Customer support team
Once signed up you will usually be able to get regular updates each time a new financial mark is made to your credit report. This could include paying a bill, missing a bill payment or applying for a credit card.
This can be a good safety net if you ever miss a payment, as you can react quicker, but it’s unlikely that you will be able to get rid of the negative mark, so just make sure you’re always on top of your bill repayments.
Old data will eventually stop appearing on your credit report, after at least six years, so it can be quite difficult to turn around your credit score if you previously had a bad credit history.
Some credit reference agencies will also usually monitor your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. They do this by checking if your name or other personal details were used in credit applications or can be found on any suspicious looking websites.
You will then be notified so you can make sure that any of the information that was passed on was provided by you and to the intended recipients.
Am I allowed a credit card?
At the most basic level, those looking to apply for credit cards in the UK need to be UK residents and at least 18 years of age.
To reduce your chances of being almost certainly declined for a credit card, you need to make sure that you are registered on the electoral roll at your address and that you are employed.
You can make sure that you’re registered on the electoral roll by registering to vote on the government website.
While there are credit cards that may be available for people who are unemployed, having an income is important for lenders to know that you can pay back your debts.
Read our guide to credit cards for unemployed people to learn more.
If you satisfy the criteria so far, then your credit score is likely to be the biggest deciding factor in your credit card application.
If you have a bad credit history, then your options will be limited, but there is hope. Some lenders have credit cards specifically for people with bad credit.
These bad credit credit cards, otherwise known as credit builder credit cards, usually come with a higher than usual APR (interest rate) and lower than usual spending limit.
There are credit cards aimed at a range of circumstances so just because you may not be a ‘typical’ credit card customer, it’s still worth comparing the market for the best credit cards for you.
You may be self-employed or have an irregular or fluctuating income, but you might still be able to find a credit card lender willing to approve your application. However, it’s not usually worth the risk without checking your credit report first.
Also as an obvious point, it’s worth making sure you know how to correctly use a credit card before you get one, as using it to buy the right things can make the difference between paying a lot of fees and interest charges or none at all.
How do I get a credit card?
Before you apply for any credit, be it a loan, mortgage or credit card, it is important to weigh up your financial circumstances against your lifestyle needs.
Ask yourself what you need a credit card for, and if you would be able to keep up with the repayments.
A simple tip is to look at your ability to repay your credit card bills if your circumstances changed in any way. For example, how would you cope financially if, say, you lost your job or you had to move home?
How would this affect your ability to pay back your debts?
Once you are comfortable with going ahead and applying for a credit card, use a comparison tool to look at what’s available on the market.
If you’re not confident about being approved then try to get a look at your credit report first – it can be a costly decision to apply without looking first.
When looking at the credit cards available, look at the APR, which will help you figure out the cost of your debts each month, check the other terms like the spending limit and application requirements to make sure you can handle everything.
Some credit cards will have a range of introductory offers such as 0% balance transfers or 0% on purchases, or even supermarket and airline rewards. Try not to be drawn in by the offers immediately.
They can work out to be a great deal but only if you know what you’re looking for and can cope with the financial responsibilities of having a credit card.
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