Will your application be accepted?
When you apply for a credit card, you can never know for sure if the provider will say yes.
Credit card companies make a decision based on the information you provide in your application and what they find from their own checks - especially the credit check they run.
You are more likely to be rejected if you have missed payments on your credit record, but every provider has a different idea of the perfect customer. This means you might not get the card you want if you have never used one before or if you want one of the top deals.
However, being rejected for cards can affect your credit record, so it is important to:
Understand which cards you have the best chance of getting
Avoid those that will reject you
A declined application means you will not get the card you wanted, so you will not be able to use it for any spending or balance transfers you had planned.
Your credit record will also be affected because the provider will have run a credit check. This leaves a footprint on your credit file, and too many rejected applications can affect your credit history.
You can ask the provider why they rejected you, which could help you work out how to improve your chances next time you apply.
How lenders decide
Credit card providers usually specify a minimum income and age for their cards. Some may even only accept your application if you are a UK resident, employed or a homeowner.
They will also look at your credit report and use the following factors to make a decision:
Lots of outstanding debt will make providers question if you will be able to afford to meet repayments on a new card. Some will reject your application if your outstanding debts are more than a certain percentage of your income.
An unused overdraft or large credit limits on existing cards may put providers off because you could use this access to lots of credit to get quickly into debt.
Being rejected for other cards in the past and making too many applications may make providers think you are desperate to borrow.
Missed payments, unauthorised use of your overdraft, taking out payday loans, exceeding your credit limit, CCJs or bankruptcies will put off many lenders.
You may have no credit history if you have never borrowed with a credit card, loan, mortgage, overdraft or even a mobile phone contract before. Your provider will therefore have no idea of how well you can manage debts.
Mistakes on your credit report like an incorrect address or a spelling mistake in your name, this can make proving your identity harder.
A joint bank account, mortgage or loan with someone else creates a financial link to them on your credit record. If you are linked to somebody with debt problems, this can affect your own credit record.
Identity theft can cause financial havoc that will show on your credit history.
As well as your credit record, providers will also check the electoral roll and their own customer records.
If you have never registered to vote, your details will not be on the electoral roll, which providers use to check your name and address to avoid identity fraud.
If you already hold a credit card with a provider, many will not offer you another card.
Check your credit record
Much of the information providers base their decision on comes from your credit history, which you are also entitled to see yourself. You can check your own record to:
Find out how lenders see you by checking the info they see
Check and amend any mistakes on your record
Look out for identity theft
See if you are financially linked to anyone else
How to get accepted
While there is no way of guaranteeing you will be accepted, there are plenty of ways to make your chances as high as possible.
Use your credit report
When you check your credit report, you will be given an idea of what you need to do to improve your chances of getting the credit card you want.
If you spot mistakes like an incorrect address, loans you did not take out or financial connections with somebody you no longer share an account with, ask the credit agency to correct their records.
You can also raise a dispute about any black marks on your credit record that you disagree with, such as if a loan provider says you missed a payment. The credit agency may then correct your records or add a note on to explain your side of the story.
Show you can borrow responsibly
Reduce the amount you owe by paying back as much of your existing debts as possible.
Keeping up regular repayments on your existing credit cards and other debts will also look good on your credit report. If you set up a direct debit, this will ensure you do not miss your repayments.
Ditch unused credit
If you have access to too much credit, lenders may worry that you could easily slip into debt and struggle to meet their repayments.
Closing credit cards you no longer use and reducing the size of your bank account's available overdraft may improve your chances of being accepted for a new credit card.
Register to vote
If you are not on the electoral register at your current address, register to vote through the GOV.UK website. You do not have to vote, but registering will help credit card providers identify you when they check your details.
Time your application wisely
If possible, apply after you have been in a new job or new home for at least a few months because credit card providers prefer customers who look stable.
Although you will need to apply for a credit card to know for sure if you will be accepted, you should avoid making too many applications and leave gaps between them.
Find cards that will accept you
Applying for lots of cards can affect your credit history, but you can find out which ones are most likely to accept you.
Use our eligibility calculator to find out which cards should be available to you. This uses a "soft credit check", which will not show up when lenders look at your record - only you can see it.
Some credit card companies provide their own eligibility tools but these will only include their own cards.
Choose the right card for bad credit
There are cards designed for those with bad credit, and some may even offer you a card if you have missed payments, CCJs or a bankruptcy on your credit history.
These cards usually have higher APRs and smaller credit limits, but they are more likely to accept your application than other types of credit card.
Choose a card to build your credit history
You could get accepted for a credit building credit card even if you do not have a perfect credit record. Simply making your repayments on time each month can then improve your credit history.
These cards are useful for first time borrowers looking to build their credit record.
These cards usually have high APRs and low credit limits, but using them sensibly could mean you can get a more attractive card in the future.
Can you get pre-approved for a card?
Some providers advertise by sending letters and emails that claim you have been "pre-approved" for a credit card.
However, this is just a marketing tactic, and there is no guarantee they will accept you. The provider will not know if you are the kind of customer they want because they will not have seen your credit record or know anything about you other than your name and address.
If you apply, the provider will run a credit check as usual and could then choose to reject your application.
Only apply for a credit card once you have checked you will be approved and compared it to other deals to make sure it is the best one for you.