Comparison websites make it easy to shop around and apply for a credit card.
Rather than just phoning up your bank and asking for one of its credit cards, or trawling through site after site taking notes, a comparison website can quickly scour the market for you to help you get the best deal.
You can search for credit cards based on what you plan to use it for too. You might be looking for a card that offers 0% interest on new purchases or may want to cut the cost of your existing borrowing by transferring any outstanding credit card balances onto a 0% balance transfer card.
Alternatively you may want a card that has favourable terms for overseas spending or gives you rewards or cashback for spending. If you don’t have a brilliant credit history you may be able to find one that can boost your credit score.
Once you have compared credit cards you can apply online in about 10 minutes. However before you apply it’s worth using a free eligibility checker to find out if you’re likely to be accepted first.
If you apply for a credit card without checking your eligibility first you run the risk of your application being declined which will leave a footprint on your credit record and potentially reduce your credit score. If a lender sees too many of these footprints on your file over a short period of time it may suggest you are having money problems.
Eligibility checkers run so-called ‘soft’ searches on your credit record, which aren’t visible to other lenders, to work out which credit cards you are most likely to be accepted for. You simply need to enter a few basic details including your name, address and income.
If you’ve already selected a card you will then see your chances of being accepted for it, followed by a list of others most likely to accept you. You may also be able to rank them to your criteria, for example lowest interest rate or longest balance transfer period.
Once you have selected one you can then follow the links to apply for it. At this point the credit card provider will run a ‘hard’ credit search which will show up on your credit record.
You can also apply for a credit card direct from the provider if you wish and many will also have free eligibility checkers to assess your chances of getting the card. The application can be done:
Over the phone: Your provider will talk you through the application and take all the details they need from you. You will usually be sent a pre-filled application form in the post to sign in and return.
Through the post: You will need to complete an application form and send it back to the credit card company. You can request a form online, over the phone or pick one up from a branch.
In branch: If your provider has one, you can apply in your local branch.
You will need to provide your:
Date of birth
Credit card providers can usually check your identity through credit referencing agencies and the electoral roll. However, they occasionally need to ask for extra identification documents like copies of your driving licence, passport, bank statement or utility bill.
You would usually need to post these documents or take them into a branch for verification.
Credit card companies will usually only accept your application if:
You are 18 or over
You live in the UK
Your annual income is above a specified amount
However they will also need to check that you meet their lending criteria for that specific card. This will be done by the credit check. If you have used a free eligibility checker you should be accepted but it isn’t guaranteed.
Find out more about how credit card companies decide and what you can do to give your application the best chance of being accepted.
The credit limit is the maximum balance you can have on your credit card at any one time.
A typical credit limit is likely to be somewhere between £3,000 and £4,000 however how much you are offered will depend on the provider’s criteria and your credit score.
When deciding your credit limit credit card providers will consider factors such as your credit record as well as how much other credit you have elsewhere and your available income after you have paid your bills.
If you have lots of borrowing elsewhere and limited available income it may offer you a lower credit limit than someone with a larger income and fewer debts.
You may be declined if you don’t meet lender’s criteria or you have a history of late or missed payments.
Don't reapply straight away because this can damage your credit report. Ideally it's best to wait at least six months. During that period, it's a good idea to take steps to improve your credit rating.
Alternatively if you didn't use a free eligibility checker it might be worth finding out what cards you are likely to be accepted for, but again you need to be mindful of making too many applications over a short period of time.
Credit cards are covered by the Consumer Credit Act and that means you have a 14 day cooling off period during which you can cancel your agreement by contacting the provider directly.
However if you have gone beyond the cooling off period you are still able to cancel a credit account and close your account, so long as you are able to repay any outstanding balance on the card.