Credit cards for poor credit are just like normal credit cards. But they're a good option for people with bad – or non-existent – credit history. They're less likely to reject you because of your bad credit.

What’s a bad credit score?

A credit score is a metric used by loans and credit card providers to judge whether you’re suitable for them to offer credit to. Your credit score helps the lender decide whether to give you a credit card and with what conditions.If you want a credit card, bad credit can be problematic. When you apply for credit cards, bad credit affects the credit score given to you by lenders.

Your credit score’s based on your record of paying bills and making debt payments. If you’ve got a bad credit score, it’s likely you’ve got a history of missing or late payments, bankruptcy, or mortgage arrears. But your score’s not just based on your credit report. It’s also based on your employment status and how much you earn.

If your credit score’s low due to your borrowing history, you might need to look at bad credit credit cards. These are designed for people in your position.

But a low credit score doesn’t always mean you’ve got poor history. It could just be that you've never borrowed before, which can make lenders more cautious about offering you credit. If that’s the case a credit builder card could be a good option for you. Credit cards to build credit offer a way to improve your credit score over time.

How do bad credit credit cards work?

As with all credit cards, bad credit credit cards are a way of borrowing money from a bank. You buy things on a card, like with a debit card. But instead of spending your own money, you're borrowing it.

You can pay off what you've spent straight away, or later. If you decide to wait, you might have to pay interest on what you owe. This is how normal credit cards work, and it's exactly the same set up for credit cards for bad credit.

What credit card for bad credit can I get?

If your credit score’s low and you need a credit card, you should think about looking at a credit card for bad credit, specifically.

There are lots of credit cards for bad credit. A bad credit credit card is ideal for people who:

  • haven't borrowed money before

  • have previously missed payments on their borrowing

  • have a history of late payments on their borrowing

  • are unemployed

  • have had county court judgments (CCJs) against them

  • have been bankrupt.

So, if your credit score is low and you need to borrow money, a credit card for poor credit might be a good option for you.

Business credit cards for bad credit

If you're a business owner and you want to get a credit card with bad credit, your credit history will still be checked.

Business credit cards for bad credit work just like personal credit cards, but the account's in your company's name instead of your own name.

You can usually borrow more with a bad credit business credit card because it's is based on your business income, not just your personal income. There tends to be a minimum amount your business needs to earn to qualify. Your business also needs to be registered in the UK. Some cards only accept certain types of company, too.

Credit cards for bad credit and unemployed people

Credit cards for bad credit and unemployed people aren’t out of the question.

You might be surprised to hear that there are still lots of options available to you. The comparison table above shows which cards you might be accepted for, even if you're unemployed with bad credit.

You're likely to pay more interest on credit cards for bad credit and unemployed people. You’re also likely to have a lower credit limit on these cards. They’re sometimes called credit building cards, as they help you to build up a credit profile.

What are the pros and cons of bad credit credit cards?

Credit cards for poor credit are great in some ways, but not so great in others. The main benefits are:

  • you’re more likely to be accepted regardless of past financial troubles

  • they’re a good way to improve your credit score

  • you’ll get good protection on purchase you make

  • you can buy larger items that you couldn’t otherwise afford, and spread the payments.

The main downsides are:

  • you’ll have to pay higher interest rates than with other credit cards

  • you’ll be offered a lower credit limit than someone with a good credit score

  • you run the risk of getting into even more debt.

How to get bad credit credit cards

If you're going to apply for credit cards for poor credit, research your options carefully before you choose which to go for.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to get a credit card for bad credit.

  • Check the price comparison table at the top of this page, which includes all our best bad credit credit cards

  • Filter the table according to your needs. For example, you can tick to say if you're unemployed. You can also tick to say you've missed credit repayments, or that you’ve got County Court Judgments (CCJs) against you. It's important to make sure you meet the requirement criteria for a card before you apply. If you apply and are rejected because you didn’t meet the criteria, it can harm your credit score further.

  • Decide which are the best credit cards for bad credit for you.

  • Click the link on the right-hand side to find out more and apply.

Compare our best credit cards for bad credit

When you've run a price comparison by following the step-by-step guide above, you'll know what your options are. Then you can decide which credit card for bad credit looks like the best one for you. Here are some tips on choosing a bad credit rating credit card.

Hover over each of the credit cards for people with bad credit in the price comparison. You’ll be able to see the criteria you have to meet for each card. This covers things like the minimum age and income requirements.

Once you've worked out which of the credit cards for bad credit you can apply for, look for the one that has the lowest interest rate. The higher the interest rate, the more you'll have to repay each month.

Check your eligibility for credit cards for poor credit

Credit cards for poor credit, UK wide, all have their own lending criteria that you’ll need to meet to get approved. This might relate to a minimum age, your income and whether you're a UK resident. There might also be requirements in relation to your history of bankruptcy and CCJs.

You should try to avoid applying for credit cards for poor credit that might reject you. This is because if you have lots of credit searches on your credit report, it can make it even harder to get accepted in the future.

Our eligibility checker can help you find the cards most likely to accept you. You can also use the comparison table of credit cards for bad credit to see if you meet the criteria of each.

Apply for credit card with bad credit

Applying for a credit card for very bad credit is really the same as applying for any other credit card.

You’ll usually need to share information about yourself with the card provider and give proof. This information might include:

  • Your name

  • Your address

  • Your date of birth

  • Your employment status

  • Your income

  • Your nationality.

Are credit cards for bad credit the same as other credit cards?

They’re largely the same as other credit cards. But credit cards for very bad credit usually have high interest rates. They also have smaller credit limits than you'd get if your credit rating was better.

Many people feel that to find the best credit card, cash back or similar deals are a must. But it's unlikely that you’ll get anything like this if you’re looking for bad credit cards. Balance transfer credit cards for bad credit are hard to come by, for example. Generally, credit cards for very bad credit, UK wide, don’t come with deals.

Offers on normal credit cards might include cashback, balance transfers or 0% interest periods on purchases.

How to improve your credit score

There are a few steps you can take to improve your credit score over time, even if you currently have an adverse credit history. For example:

  • sign up to the electoral role

  • use bad credit building credit cards

  • don’t miss any repayments on your debts – pay on time and in full

  • don’t use more than half of your credit limit

  • check for credit record mistakes

  • avoid payday loans

  • avoid unauthorised overdrafts

  • close your unused credit accounts

  • don’t make too many credit applications.