How To Get A Credit Card With Bad Credit

If you've had issues with credit in the past or your credit report is not as good as it could be, it can be very frustrating when you're looking to apply for a new credit card. Whether you've missed a few payments by accident or ran into financial trouble a few years back, credit history has a bad habit of catching up with you.

The majority of credit card providers in the UK will decline you if there are any warning flags showing up at the credit bureau, even if these are from some time ago or not major problems. These credit cards target prime customers with pristine credit profiles so you'll need to do a bit of research before finding the right credit card for you.

To help you understand how you can get a credit card with bad credit and exactly what you'll need to do, read our guide below:

Can bad credit stop you from getting a credit card?

In some cases, your credit profile may be so bad that no credit card provider will offer you a credit card. If you happen to be in this situation, your best bet is not to apply, but to sort things out first and apply for your credit card when your credit profile will look better.

If you have one of the following, you won't be accepted for any UK credit card:

  1. Have a county court judgement in the last 12 months
  2. Have been declared bankrupt, entered into an Individual voluntary arrangement with creditors or had a credit debt charged off in the last 18 months
  3. You are currently or in the last month behind on payments for any credit
  4. You have no data available through the credit reference agencies
  5. Your monthly outgoings including your debt repayments are higher than your income

If you have bad credit, but not in one of the above situations, you might still be able to get a credit card from one of the specialist providers.

Even if you don't hit any of the above rules, if you have a number of different issues with your credit profile, or already have a high level of outstanding debt, you are still likely to be declined based on an internal score calculated by the credit card company or due to you not being able to afford the monthly repayments.

Which credit cards can you get with bad credit?

There are only a small number of credit card providers that offer credit cards to customers with bad credit. While none of them will provide credit if you have strong negative marks on your credit profile, they will lend to customers they classify as near-prime, i.e. not quite eligible for prime credit cards, but not far off.

The following companies currently have credit cards for customers with bad credit:

CompanyCredit card products
  • Aqua Classic
  • Aqua Advance
  • Aqua Reward
  • marbles
  • Opus
  • Amazon Classic
  • Fluid
Tesco Bank
  • Foundation Credit Card
  • Vanquis Classic
  • Aquis
  • Chrome
  • Origin Card
Capital One
  • Capital One Classic
  • Capital One Classic Platinum
  • Ocean Finance
  • Luma
  • thinkmoney
118118 Money
  • 118118 Money Credit Card
  • Barclaycard Forward

As you can see, there are a few different brands out there, but there's only a handful of lenders that are behind these different credit cards.

In the majority of cases, the credit policy for the different credit cards provided by the same lender will be either identical or extremely similar. That means that if you get declined for an Aqua Classic credit card, for example, there's no point trying to apply for the marbles credit card straight after as you'll get the same result.

It's also important to note that not all near prime credit cards are created equal in terms of your chances of being accepted. Companies like Vanquis or Newday are likely to accept customers with slightly worse credit than Barclaycard because they are specialist near-prime lenders and Barclaycard's business is primarily targeted at prime customers.

How to find out if you can get a bad credit credit card

Finding out whether you're eligible is much easier today than it was a few years ago. All of the above companies now do soft credit bureau checks when you check your eligibility.

This means that if you get declined upfront, your credit profile will not be affected and it will not impact your ability to apply for other credit cards.

Applying for a number of credit cards can be annoying so you can try checking your eligibility on a comparison website. Totally Money is one of the best for bad credit credit cards so you can start your search on there. They don't have every single one of the above cards but all the lenders and all the main products are there so it's a great place to start.

If you don't want to use a comparison website for whatever reason (they do send your details out to all the different potential lenders and you have to create an account with them as part of the process), you can have a go at applying for these companies directly.

Start with the products that most appeal to you or those that are more likely to accept you - Newday, Capital One and Vanquis are good bets on the latter front as established specialist lenders for customers with bad credit.

Things to consider before applying for a credit card with bad credit

There are a few things to be aware of before applying for a bad credit credit card.

First - make sure you actually want and need one of these credit cards. You should either get one of them to build and improve your credit rating or if you want to improve the management of your debt.

Granted - borrowing money at a range of somewhere between 27.9% and 39.9% is pretty expensive when you compare it to some of the interest rates available on prime credit cards. But these rates are still a lot better than a lot of other loans and borrowing products that some customers may have and if you are not eligible for better products, these credit cards can still be a step in the right direction for some customers.

If you have a loan at 450% APR and you can get a credit card to repay at least some if not all of the loan and begin paying only 29.9% on the same money, it is a great idea to do so. Just make sure you're not using the new card as an excuse to spend AND borrow more in the process unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

Also make sure you understand what you're getting yourself into. We have a lot of resources at to help you understand everything you might want to know about credit cards. We will soon be publishing a dedicated guide that will break the entire credit card product down to explain how everything works in detail.

In short, credit cards can be a great way to improve your credit but can also easily lead you down a dark hole. Credit cards for bad credit have a habit of increasing your credit limit every 3 to 5 months after you apply and get accepted.

They also have another bad habit of increasing your interest rates once you have built up a balance which can impact your monthly repayments and cost of credit a lot if you're not repaying in full.

Make sure you are aware of all the tricks that can come down the line and use the credit cards to your advantage in improving your credit position.

What you can do to improve your credit so that you can get a credit card

If you want to increase your chances of getting accepted for a bad credit credit card or if you want to understand what it will take to step up to the more premium offerings in the market, there are a few steps you can do.

First, make sure all of your credit payments are up to date and continue making them for at least 6 months without fail on every credit card, loan, overdraft, phone contract and even utility bills.

Next, make sure you're on the electoral roll and do some tidying up of your credit history. If you have credit cards or other credit accounts you don't use (e.g. mail order account), close these down and wait at least a couple of months for that to show up on your credit file. Do your best to not increase your existing debt pile - good payment behaviour makes a difference.

If you don't have much credit history, get an overdraft arranged with your bank (however small) or get a simple phone pay monthly sim card which both report to credit agencies as a credit product - use these every month if you can and make sure you make the payments regularly - in around 6 months, your credit history will begin shaping up nicely.

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