How to apply for a credit card

There are a few important things to consider before you apply for a credit card.

What you should know before you apply

For many people, the first thing to know before you apply is whether you’re likely to be approved. That’s because having your application rejected can hurt your credit rating. So it’s worth taking a little time to make sure you satisfy the basic requirements before you apply. That way, you can apply with confidence.

Are you eligible for a credit card?

  • you need to be over 18 years of age
  • have earning over £3,000 a year
  • have not been bankrupt or had an Individual Voluntary Arrangement or Debt Relief Order in the last six years
  • have not had any outstanding County Court Judgement (CCJ’s) in the last six years
  • have proof of your current address
  • have a good record of paying bills on time

If you’ve never applied for a credit card before, you can dig a little deeper at What criteria do I need to meet to apply for my first credit card.

Is your credit score good enough?

Your credit score is the biggest factor in determining if you’ll be approved. It’s your financial footprint – it’s how banks and other lenders decide how reliable you are.  

A higher credit score means you’re more likely to be approved, and to be offered better interest rates and higher credit limits.

So check your credit score before you apply. It’s free. You can find out how to check your credit score.

Use our eligibility checker before you apply

With a credit card eligibility checker, you can do a ‘soft credit check’ that doesn’t show up on your credit history. That way, you find out if you’re likely to qualify without harming your credit rating. A credit card eligibility checker can also tell you what kind of card you’re likely to qualify for.  

How to choose the right card?

With so many credit cards and features to choose from, picking the right one can get a bit daunting.

The key is to keep it simple. So focus on the features that matter the most to you. If you want a card for making everyday purchases, then a cashback card that earns cash back on purchases may be the one for you. Meanwhile, if you’re new to credit cards and want to establish a credit history, a credit builder card could be the answer.

Just remember that every credit card has its benefits, as well is its costs. So focus on the card with the features you really need. For extra tips, you can check out How to choose the credit card that’s right for you.

Important things to consider when choosing your card


What’s the APR?

If you’re looking for a credit card, you have to look at the APR – the Annual Percentage Rate. The APR will give you a good idea of the real cost of using a credit card over the course of a year. That’s because it includes interest payments as well as standard fees. They’re a great way to compare the real cost of different credit cards. So it’s really worth checking out What is an APR to really understand how they work.

What are the fees and interest rates?

Your credit card APR tells you how much you could pay in interest and standard fees when you use your card for making purchases. But depending on how you use your card, there could also be other fees and charges to consider.

For example, if you use your credit card for cash advances or balance transfers, the interest rates and fees are likely to be different. So it’s important to know what they are before you choose your card. And if you’re looking for a card with an introductory 0% interest rate, it’s important to know how long introductory interest rates last, and what they default to once that period is over.

What happens if you’re accepted

If your credit card application is approved, you’ll be offered a credit card with an interest rate and credit limit specifically for you. In the majority of cases, that will be the advertised interest rate. But that’s not always the case.

Depending on your credit score and financial situation, you could be offered an interest rate and fees that are higher, as well as a credit limit that’s different than the one you asked for. You could also be offered a different credit card than the one you applied for.

It’s important to make sure you can afford the card before going ahead. And if you decide not to choose the card that’s offered, you have the option to turn it down.

What happens if you’re declined

There are some important dos and don’ts if you’re turned down for a credit card.

First of all, don’t apply for another credit card right away – as this is likely to harm your credit rating. You should wait at least 30 days before trying again.

The best thing to do is read the response letter or email you were sent. It will give you a good idea of why you were turned down. That way, you can take the necessary steps to improve your chances of being approved the next time around.

In almost every case, there are things you can do to improve your credit score and the likelihood of being approved. For some, this could involve using reminder alerts to avoid late payments, or settling an outstanding County Court Judgement (CCJ). You can find a number of helpful practical ideas at What to do if your credit card application is turned down.

If you were applying for your first credit card, then you may want to consider a Credit building credit card the next time you apply. It could be a good way to start building a credit history and showing that you’re reliable at managing money.

What's next?

It is important that you find a credit card that is right for you.

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