Compare low income credit cards

Credit cards for low income and unemployed Brits

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Last updated
February 7th, 2024

What is a low income credit card?

Low income credit cards are credit cards designed for people with little to no income.

For standard credit cards, some providers require you to be earning at least £10,500 to qualify, and others expect you to be making far more than that.

Fortunately, there is a range of credit cards specifically aimed at those who are on a low income or unemployed. Some, for example, might only ask for a minimum income requirement of £3,000. 

These credit cards let people making less money benefit from the extra protection available on credit cards and help them improve their credit scores.

Having low income doesn't mean you can't get a credit card.”

Can you get a credit card if you’re unemployed or have no income?

Put simply - yes. Credit card providers understand that while income is important, it's far from the only thing that matters when choosing who they’ll offer a card to.

What’s more, they understand circumstances change, and just because you're unemployed now, it doesn't follow that you always will be.

On top of that, not having a job doesn't mean you have no income at all.

“Remember - it's not just your wages that count as income for a credit card provider.”

What counts as acceptable income varies from card provider to card provider.

As well as wages, different credit card providers count some or all of the following towards income on a credit card application:

  • Pension income

  • Disability living allowance

  • Savings interest

  • Rental income

  • Spousal maintenance

  • Child maintenance

  • Some universal credit payments

How to get a credit card with a low income

Finding the best low income credit card will depend on your personal circumstances and how low your earnings are. When deciding whether to offer you a credit card, lenders will also look at your credit rating and age. You need to be at least 18 to apply for most cards while for some it’s 21.

Use an eligibility tool

An eligibility tool lets you determine which cards you’re most likely to be accepted for.

And because they use a “soft search” credit check, you can use it as many times as you want without affecting your credit score.

Compare low income credit cards

Once you get your results, you’ll ideally want a card that offers the lowest interest rate for the highest credit limit you can get, but prioritise what’s important to you based on your needs. The results are based on your likelihood of approval, so you can be confident about getting the card you pick.

Fill out an application

Applying online is often the easiest way, but you may be able to apply by phone or by visiting a branch. All you have to do is provide your name, contact details and financial information. After that, it can take up to a week or more to hear back about whether you've been accepted, although some online applications offer instant decisions.

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Compare low income credit cards with our partner Uswitch

We've partnered with Uswitch to help you find a great deal. Start your eligibility journey now
eligibility-animation
1
Answer a few basic questions about your circumstances
2
We'll show you the cards you’re likely to get, so you can apply with confidence
3
Your credit score will always be protected

Expert tips for low income credit card applications

There are plenty of steps you can take to boost your chances of being accepted for a credit card that are not related to your earnings.

Importantly, if you're trying to get the best credit card, it’s vital to avoid applying with lots of providers.

That's because lenders can see how many applications you've made, and a lot of applications in a short space of time is a red flag for many providers.

For this reason, it’s best to check the eligibility criteria before applying to see whether your chosen card specifies a minimum income amount.

If you don't think your application will be accepted based on the eligibility criteria, don't apply as it could harm your credit record.

The good news is that many online tools let you check to see which cards you're most likely to be accepted for before you submit a formal application - and using them is something lenders won't be able to see.

% who don't know their credit score[1]
70%

When you apply, there are several factors that a lender will consider as well as income. Your card provider will check your credit record for the following:

  • Existing debt: Your application could be rejected if your debts are more than a certain percentage of your income.

  • Unused overdraft or credit limits: This may put providers off because you could use this credit to get into more debt.

  • Several credit applications at once: This may cause providers to think you are desperate to borrow.

  • Poor financial history: This could be a missed credit card payment, using an unauthorised overdraft or taking out a payday loan.

  • No credit history: This shows a provider that you have no experience of managing credit or debt and can reduce your chance of acceptance.

  • Joint bank account, mortgage or loan: This creates a financial link to another person, which means if they have debt problems, it could affect your own credit rating.

You should always check your credit record before you apply for a credit card.

What determines my eligibility for a credit card?

There are a number of factors that lenders will consider when deciding whether to offer you a credit card. These include:

  • Your age: To qualify for a credit card, you will usually need to be at least 18 years old 

  • Credit rating: Lenders will look at your credit record to determine how likely you are to repay your debt, how much they are willing to let you borrow and what rate of interest you will be charged

  • Financial history: Any recent history of bankruptcy or County Court Judgements will reduce your chances of getting a credit card

  • Income: Lenders may have minimum income requirements that you will need to meet to be eligible

Pros and Cons of getting a credit card with low income

Pros

Less restrictive eligibility requirements
Useful if you need credit urgently
Can help you improve your credit history

Cons

Typically have higher interest rates
Generally offer lower credit limits
Costly if you don't keep up with repayments

Other options for borrowing with a low income

Credit cards are only one way to borrow money if you have a low income or are unemployed. Other products may be more appropriate depending on how much you need to borrow and the provider’s eligibility requirements. Here are some alternatives:

Guarantor loans

Guarantor loans are personal loans where you get a close friend or family member to act as a guarantor, agreeing to meet the loan repayments if you’re unable to.

Whoever agrees to be the guarantor should be aware of what they’re signing up for.

Being a guarantor is a major commitment, and they'll need a good credit score and, ideally, be a homeowner.

Credit union loans

Credit unions offer savings and loans to specific groups, for example, people in a particular area or profession.

These loans are often significantly cheaper than ones from short-term lenders. If there's a credit union in your area, they could be a good option.

To borrow from a credit union, you may have to become a member. Some require you to start saving with them first.

Ask your bank about an overdraft

Overdrafts are far from the cheapest way to borrow, but can also be one of the quickest ways to get a line of credit extended to you.

Simply ask your bank if it can either give you an overdraft facility on your account or extend your current one. As with a credit card, you can repay as much as you choose, and interest is charged daily. This means they can be a good solution if you only need the extra cash for a day or two.

Low income cards jargon buster

APR

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate” and is the total cost of borrowing over 12 months. For example, if your APR is 20%, you will be charged 20p for every £1 borrowed over the course of 12 months. If you pay your balance in full and on time, you will not pay interest.

Balance

Your credit card balance is the amount of money you owe your credit card provider. In other words, it's the amount you borrowed using your credit card to buy goods and services. It's also sometimes referred to as your credit card debt.

Credit limit

Your credit limit is the amount you can borrow on your credit card at any one time. If you exceed this amount, you can be charged a fee - typically £12 - and it can leave a mark on your credit report.

You won’t usually find out your credit limit until the end of an application process - although you can ask your provider to increase – or decrease – your credit limit at any time.

Credit limits are set based on your credit history and your earnings.

Once you've reached your credit limit, you need to make a payment to bring down your balance before you can use the card again. Find out more in our guide to credit limits.

Credit report

Your credit report is your history of borrowing and paying bills over the past few years. Lenders send this information to one or more of the three credit reference agencies, which compile reports on UK residents.

Before deciding whether to let someone borrow, lenders check your report from one or more of the agencies. You can request a copy of your credit reports to ensure there are no mistakes on your file, request changes if you spot one and add notes explaining any missed payments.

Credit score

Your credit score is calculated based on your credit history. Each credit reference agency has its own method of calculating this.

Your credit score will go up for things like making payments on time and down for things like being late or defaulting on a loan. Typically, the higher your score, the more likely you are to be offered a lower rate of interest or higher credit limit.

There is no absolute pass or fail mark attached to a credit score, with each lender making its own decision on what it considers acceptable.

Default

If you miss a few payments, generally between three and six, your credit card provider will send you a default notice, giving you at least 14 days to pay the amount stated on the notice. 

Court action could be used to recover the debt, and if you fail to make the payment, your account will be “defaulted”, meaning you won’t be able to use your credit card anymore. It is possible that your provider may have already blocked spending on your account after the first couple of missed payments. A record of the default will also stay on your credit report for six years, making it harder to get any form of credit throughout this time.

Direct Debit

A Direct Debit is when you give a company permission to take payments automatically from your bank account. It decides the amount, but you are free to cancel the arrangement. For example, you can set up a Direct Debit to pay off your credit card. This could be for the minimum amount due, a fixed sum, or the entire balance.

Eligibility criteria

Minimum eligibility criteria define the attributes the provider expects customers to have before offering them a product. They’re designed to help customers understand if they should proceed with an application.

Meeting the minimum eligibility criteria is not a guarantee of approval. Eligibility criteria include factors such as age, salary and sometimes other details, depending on the product.

Hard credit check

If you’ve made an application for credit, such as a credit card, loan or mortgage, lenders will carry out an in-depth check of your credit report, known as a hard credit check.

This is a detailed look into your financial history, especially your borrowing history, so a lender can see your track record of repaying money you've previously borrowed.

A hard check will show any negative marks on your credit report, like overdue payments, missed payments, previous credit applications and even bankruptcies.

Every time a hard check is carried out, it leaves a mark on your credit report, which can hurt your credit score.

Interest-free credit

Interest-free credit cards allow you to either transfer a balance, make purchases or transfer cash to a current account without paying any interest on your balance for a set period. However, you must keep making at least the minimum monthly repayment during this time.

Once the 0% deal is over, you will be charged interest on any remaining debt at your standard APR. With balance transfers and money transfers, you will usually have to pay a transfer fee. 

Introductory offer

Credit card introductory offers include bonus reward points, extra cashback, 0% on balance transfers or 0% on purchases.

Introductory offers are used to attract new customers, but once they expire, they revert to the standard offer or rate. When this happens, you should check if you’re still getting the best deal or whether you need to switch to a different credit card.

Minimum monthly repayment

Every credit card has a minimum monthly repayment amount set out in its rules, which you can find in the summary box.

The minimum payment is calculated by working out what interest you've built up over the past month and then adding a small percentage of your total balance. If you have a small overall balance, there might be a fixed sum instead - for example, £5.

As minimum monthly repayments are set at such low levels, it’s best to pay off more than this each month if you can. You’ll clear your debt faster and pay less interest too.

Soft credit check

A soft credit check is a top-level view of your financial history. It lets lenders assess you for their offers and can show you what you could be eligible for.

Although a soft credit check is recorded, it doesn’t leave a mark on your credit file. This means that while you can see soft checks when you look at your own report, lenders can't. A soft credit check won’t impact your credit score, but you’ll be able to see if anyone has checked your credit history.

In certain industries, some employers will perform a soft credit check if you’ve recently applied for a job with them.

Low income credit cards FAQs

Can I get a credit card if I’m not employed?

Yes, it’s possible to get a credit card if you’re not employed, but the choice of deals available to you will be more limited. That means you’re more likely to pay a higher rate of interest and be offered a lower credit limit. Your chances of success will be higher if you have another form of income, such as disability living allowance or child maintenance, and if you have low levels of existing debt and a good credit history. However, taking on debt when you’re not working can be risky and you’ll need to be sure you can keep up with your credit card repayments.

What is the minimum salary for a credit card?

There is no standard minimum salary you need to meet to be able to get a credit card. Different credit card providers will have different requirements. Some might specify you must have an income of more than £10,500, for example. Others, particularly credit cards that offer a range of rewards, might ask for a much higher salary.

How do I get a credit card without proof of income?

Getting a credit card without any proof of income at all can be difficult. However, remember that income doesn’t have to refer to a salary. It can also include any benefits you receive, pension income or income from a partner. If you can prove you get these, you might still be able to get accepted for a credit card. Remember that different lenders have different requirements, so it pays to shop around and use an eligibility checker before you apply.

How do I get my first card?

If you’re applying for your first card, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old and ideally be in good financial shape. Here is how to find a card that is more likely to accept you even if you have never used one before and what you need to know about using credit cards.

What charges come with credit cards for low income?

Low income credit cards come with the same charges as other credit cards but sometimes have higher APRs, which determine how much interest you pay.

Does my credit record matter?

Yes, your credit record helps lenders decide whether they are happy to let you borrow and what APR and credit limit they will offer you.

Can I get a low income credit card if I have bad credit?

If you have bad credit, you might be able to get a . Just be aware that interest rates can be higher and credit limits lower. Here is how they work

Can I get more than one credit card?

Yes, you can, but while having different cards for different purposes can be useful, too many credit cards can hurt your credit record. Work out how many is too many here.

Can I get a credit card if I am retired?

Yes, many credit card providers will accept you as long as your retirement income and credit record meet their minimum requirements.

Can I get a joint credit card?

No, credit cards are held and paid off by one person, but adding a supplementary cardholder gives them a card in their name that is linked to your account.

Learn more about credit scores

No matter how you think you're doing, it's useful to know how credit scoring works - whether it’s how it's calculated, what affects it, or what you can do to improve it.
What is a credit record?
What is a credit record?
How to check your credit rating?
How to check your credit rating?
How to improve your credit score
How to improve your credit score

About the author

James Andrews
James has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news, specialising in consumer rights, pensions, insurance, property and investments

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References

1. Credit card facts and statistics 2022 money.co.uk's report on credit card use in the UK