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Credit cards for bad credit

What is a credit rating?

A credit rating (sometimes also called a credit score) is a record of your financial history.

When you apply for a credit card, loan or mobile phone contract, lenders check your credit rating to help them decide how likely you are to pay them back.

The better your credit rating is, the more likely you are to be accepted.

You can check your credit rating with one of the UK's three main reference agencies, Equifax opens in a new window , Experian opens in a new window and Call Credit opens in a new window . Your credit rating will typically include a numbered score, and a report that lists information about your financial history and personal details.

The report holds information about:

  • Who you are and where you live

    Your name, date of birth, and a record of your current and previous addresses.

  • Your credit accounts

    The total amount you owe, and how much credit you have available to you.

  • Your payment history

    Any late or missed payments on existing or past credit card or loan accounts.

Your credit report does not include:

  • Your bank balance
  • Savings
  • How much you earn
  • Student loans
  • Criminal record
  • Medical history
  • Parking or driving fines
  • Council tax arrears

What is bad credit?

Bad credit affects millions of people in the UK. So if you have a bad credit rating, it’s important to know that you are not alone.

There are two main causes of bad credit:

Not having enough credit history

When you apply for credit, credit card companies and other lenders want to know that you can afford to pay back the money you borrow. Without a credit history, they're left in the dark about how much of a risk you might be.

This means that even if you've always managed your money well, but have never had a credit card or borrowed money, you could be turned down for credit.

People who are new to the UK are also likely to have limited credit history, which can make it difficult to get things like a mobile phone contract, home broadband or a credit card.

Problems with credit

If you've had problems with credit in the past, and ended up missing repayments, you could find it hard to get accepted for credit in the future.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to repair your credit rating, and prove to lenders that you can be responsible with credit.

Applying for a credit card if you have bad credit

Poor credit doesn't always mean you can't have a credit card.

Some lenders, like Capital One, offer credit building cards that are specially designed to help people improve their credit rating.

Credit building cards usually come with a smaller credit limit to start off with, but can increase as you show you can manage credit responsibly.

It's really important to use your card responsibly by making at least your monthly minimum payment on time and staying below your credit limit. Not doing so could harm your credit score further.

Remember to check before you apply

Some lenders now offer free eligibility checkers that let you know your chances of being accepted before you apply.

Capital One's QuickCheck gives you a definite yes or no - so you can be 100% certain if you'll be accepted before you apply – without affecting your credit score.

Build your credit rating

Classic credit card
Build your credit rating with Capital One's Classic Card

Our most popular card with over 4 million people accepted.

  • For people with bad credit
  • Find out if you'll be accepted before you apply
  • £200 to £1,500 credit limit
  • Up to two optional credit limit increases per year, subject to eligibility
  • Helps you stay on top of your spending with alerts
Check your eligibility now

Representative example: Assuming a credit limit of £1,200 and an interest rate on purchases of 34.94% p.a. variable, you will receive a 34.9% APR representative variable.

How to improve your credit rating

It takes time to improve your credit rating. But it's never too late to start. And the sooner you do, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits.

These simple steps are a great way to begin.

Don't guess. Check your score.

Sometimes people assume they have a bad credit rating without knowing for sure. The only way to know is by checking your credit score. You can check your credit report by visiting the three main credit reference agencies; Equifax opens in a new window , Experian opens in a new window and Call Credit opens in a new window .

Register to vote

Lenders use the electoral roll to confirm your identity. If you’re not on it, it’s harder for them to do this. Register for free at gov.uk/register-to-voteopens in a new window

Pay your bills on time with Direct Debit

Missing a payment can affect your credit score for up to 6 years. Setting up a Direct Debit is a simple way to make sure you pay on time, every time.

Don't apply for too many credit cards

Each time you apply for a credit card a mark is left on your credit report. Too many marks in a short space of time can make you look risky to lenders, which could reduce your chances of being accepted.

Always use eligibility checkers before you apply

Eligibility checkers let you know your chances of being accepted for a card before you apply, without leaving a visible mark on your credit report.

Capital One's QuickCheck gives you a definite yes or no in 60 seconds. So you can be 100% certain if you'll be accepted before you apply, without affecting your credit score.

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Close unused accounts

Having a high number of credit accounts can affect your credit rating. Close any accounts that you're no longer using.

Mistakes on your credit report

It's up to you to make sure the information on your credit file is accurate. You can check by visiting the three main credit reference agencies; Equifax opens in a new window , Experian opens in a new window and Call Credit opens in a new window

Financial associations

Your credit rating can be affected by people you share a direct financial link with. Living with someone isn't enough to create a link, but opening a joint bank account is.

If you're worried you might be linked to someone with poor credit, you can request a 'notice of disassociation' on your credit report.