Compare Credit Cards For Bad Credit
Compare a range of credit cards from UK lenders and check your eligibility* without impacting your credit score.
We've partnered with Freedom Finance to compare a range of credit cards from across the market
Compare balance transfer, purchase, reward and credit building cards
Check your eligibility in a few simple steps to see your chances of being accepted before you apply
No impact on your credit score
Compare top lenders, including:
Freedom Finance is a trading style of Freedom Finance Limited who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Freedom Finance Limited. Registered Office Atlantic House, Atlas Business Park, Simonsway, Manchester, M22 5PR. Registered in England & Wales 06297533. FCA No. 662079. VAT Registration Number 257 0001 44.
What are credit cards for bad credit?
Credit cards for bad credit are exactly what they sound like. They are credit cards that are specifically designed for individuals with poorer credit scores.
Whether your credit history has suffered because of a few missed payments, an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), a county court judgment (CCJ) or another reason, there may be options for you.
These credit cards work just like any other credit card. You have a credit limit, which is the maximum amount you can borrow on your card. The amount you spend on the card can then be repaid at a later date and over a longer period, with interest.
Bear in mind you won’t be charged any interest if you repay your credit card balance in full each month.
If you have bad credit, you are likely to find that the cards you are eligible for have higher interest rates and lower credit limits (the amount you can borrow on the card).
Credit builder cards are a type of credit card aimed at people with poor or limited credit histories. The purpose of these cards is to help people build up or improve their credit scores and, all being well, access better credit card deals in the future.
» COMPARE: Credit builder credit cards
What is bad credit?
Your credit history is a record of how you have managed your finances and credit repayments in the past. Credit reference agencies (CRAs) keep this record, which third parties can view to help them decide whether to approve your application for credit. CRAs also use this information to come up with a credit score – a number that indicates your creditworthiness.
If you have bad credit, your credit score will be low. It could indicate that you have had problems with your finances in the past, such as late or missed payments.
Different CRAs have different scoring systems to determine whether someone has ‘bad credit’.
» MORE: How to check your credit score
What are the pros and cons of getting a credit card for bad credit?
There are a number of pros and cons to consider before deciding whether it’s a good idea to get a credit card for bad credit.
Advantages of credit cards for bad credit
If you have a patchy credit history, some potential benefits of credit cards for bad credit are:
- You are more likely to be accepted when you are not eligible for a standard credit card.
- You may be able to improve your credit score, as long as you make your repayments on time and manage your other credit commitments effectively.
- Any purchases you make on the card between £100 and £30,000 could be protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Disadvantages of credit cards for bad credit
However, you should remember that credit cards are a form of borrowing and come with some risks and disadvantages, such as:
- You could be tempted to overspend and end up struggling to make repayments and manage your debts. Because credit cards make it so easy to spend, they may not always be the best option for you, especially if you’ve had problems with paying off debt in the past.
- Credit cards for bad credit typically have lower credit limits. This means you won’t have as much available credit to spend.
- Interest rates will be higher for those with poorer credit scores. The cost of interest can easily rack up if you don’t manage your account and pay off your credit card balance.
Am I eligible for a credit card with poor credit?
This will depend on your individual situation and the credit card company.
For example, someone who has a fair or poor credit score may be eligible for some standard cards, but they could face higher interest rates compared to someone with a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ rating.
However, those with lower credit scores may not qualify for a standard credit card at all. Instead, they may need to look at specialist credit cards designed for people with bad credit.
Make sure you check the requirements for each credit card, as some providers may not accept applications if you’ve had a CCJ, for example.
Before applying for a card, you can check your eligibility. The provider will ask for basic information and run a soft credit check to see whether they can offer you a card, without affecting your credit score.
This can help you to see what credit cards you qualify for and allow you to compare deals before submitting a formal application. Full credit checks conducted during an application will have a negative effect on your score if they are declined or if you make multiple applications.
Should I get a credit card if I have bad credit?
It’s up to you to decide whether a credit card is suitable for you. You may consider getting a credit card with bad credit if:
- You want to build up your credit history.
- You want to spread the cost of a purchase over a short period.
- You would be able to afford the repayments and manage your card effectively.
However, you may want to think twice about applying for a card if:
- You would struggle to make the repayments.
- You’re concerned that you might rack up expensive debt.
- You recently applied for credit.
- You need to spread the cost over a longer period of time.
If you don’t need a credit card immediately, then it may be worth trying to improve your credit score before applying. A higher credit score could open up more options for you and help you to access better deals.
» MORE: Should I get a credit card?
How can I apply for a credit card for bad credit?
You can apply for a credit card with bad credit just like you would for any other credit card.
The credit company will need to know certain details about you, including your:
- address history
- contact details
- employment status
Whenever you apply for a credit card, the provider will also run a hard credit check. This will be recorded on your credit history and could affect your score.
If you have a poor credit history, you may not qualify for every type of credit card. To minimise the chances of having your application rejected, you can check your eligibility for a credit card first.
This won’t affect your credit score and it will give you a good indication of whether your application for a particular card would be approved.
Credit Cards for Bad Credit FAQs
What credit card can I get with bad credit?
This will depend on your overall financial situation and the individual credit card company.
The more competitive credit card deals, including 0% interest cards and rewards cards, will be reserved for those with the best credit scores, so if you have poor credit you may struggle to get approved. Even if you are eligible for one of these cards, they are likely to come with higher interest rates and lower credit limits if you have a poor credit history.
However, if you don’t qualify for some credit card deals, there are providers that offer specialist credit cards for bad credit.
For example, credit builder credit cards could be an option. These aim to help you improve your credit score if you have had problems in the past or if you haven’t built up a credit history.
Can I get a credit card with no credit check?
No, all credit card companies have to run a credit check before deciding whether to approve your application. This is to make sure that you can afford to have a credit card.
However, you can check your eligibility for a card without a hard credit check.
Can I get a credit card if I’m unemployed?
It may be possible to get a credit card if you’re unemployed, but your choices are likely to be more limited.
Some credit card companies will only accept applications if your income is above a certain level, but other providers will consider applications from people with a low income or who have reliable income from sources other than employment. The decision will rest with individual providers and your personal situation, so it’s important to look at the criteria and check your eligibility before applying for a card.
Can I get a credit card with a CCJ or IVA?
If you’re paying off a CCJ or IVA, you’re likely to find it much more difficult to take out a credit card. For example, during an IVA, you need to ask permission from your insolvency practitioner if you want to borrow more than £500.
CCJs and IVAs stay on your credit history for six years and will have a negative effect on your score. However, over time and as you start to rebuild your credit history, your score and your ability to access credit should start to improve.
There are credit card companies that will consider applications from people with a CCJ or IVA on their credit history, but the final decision will depend on your individual situation.
Are there any guaranteed approval credit cards for bad credit?
No, you won’t find any credit cards with guaranteed approval. All credit card companies have to conduct financial checks and credit checks to make sure you can afford to take on a credit card. Only after looking at this information will a provider decide whether to approve your application for a credit card.
You can check your eligibility for a credit card to see how likely you are to be accepted for it. However, even if this preliminary check indicates that you can get a card, you are still not 100% guaranteed to get it if you apply as the approval is subject to final checks.
If all the information you provided to check your eligibility is accurate, it is very likely that your application will be approved.
What is a credit builder credit card?
A credit builder card is a type of credit card that aims to help people with low or limited credit histories to build up their score. They are available from some mainstream providers as well as some more specialist ones, and they can be an option if you don’t qualify for a standard credit card.
Credit builder cards will normally have a lower credit limit and higher interest rates, but as you make repayments on the card your credit score should improve. This should help you to access credit cards with higher limits and better rates of interest.
» MORE: What are credit builder cards?
How high are the interest rates on credit cards for bad credit?
This depends on your individual circumstances and the credit card company. Typically, credit cards for people with bad credit come with higher interest rates, so can cost more than a typical credit card.
You can compare the annual percentage rate (APR) of credit cards to see how much a credit card could cost you in total over the course of a year, taking into account interest charges and fees.
What should I do if my application is declined?
If your application is rejected, don’t immediately try to apply for another card. Credit card applications involve a hard credit check, which will leave a mark on your credit history, so multiple applications in a short space of time could affect your credit score even further.
Instead, try to work out why your application was declined. If it’s because of your credit history, you can try to work on improving your credit score as this will help any future applications. You can check your credit history for free to see where there is room for improvement and to keep track of your score.
When you’re ready to apply again, make sure you apply for a card that’s suitable for your circumstances to reduce your chances of rejection. For example, you could consider a credit builder card if your credit score is too low for other types of cards.
Before applying for a card, you may be able to check your eligibility to see how likely you are to be approved.
Why do I have bad credit?
There are a number of reasons that could explain why you have a bad credit score. Firstly, if you’ve never had any kind of credit agreement, your limited credit history could mean your credit score is low. Similarly, if you’ve recently moved to the UK, you may not have had time to build up your credit history.
If you have taken out credit and you’ve made late payments or missed payments altogether on any kind of credit agreement, this could harm your credit score. If this escalated so you defaulted on an agreement, received an IVA or CCJ, or were declared bankrupt, your credit history will reflect this.
Even if you’ve made payments on time, being close to your credit limit, or going over your limit, can affect your score.
Multiple applications for credit within a short space of time can also drag your score down. Even having multiple addresses in a short space of time could affect your score.
Will applying for a credit card affect my credit score?
Yes. When you apply for a credit card, the credit card company will run a hard credit check. This will leave a mark on your credit history and could temporarily affect your credit score.
However, if you make your payments on time and manage your credit card responsibly, your credit score should begin to reflect this.
Will a credit card help to rebuild my credit history?
A credit card could help to rebuild your credit history, as long as you stay within the terms of your credit agreement, make your payments on time, and stay well within your credit limit, for example. If you show you can manage your repayments and your credit card responsibly, your credit history should start to reflect this.
To see an improvement in your credit score, you will also need to stay on top of your other credit commitments and make all your payments on time.
If you miss payments on your credit card (or other payments), or start to build up a significant amount of debt, this could harm your credit score rather than improving it.
Your credit profile is also affected by other factors. Be clear what these are if you wish to improve it as, while a well managed credit card can contribute to your score, it is not the only consideration.
How can I improve my credit score?
You can improve your credit score in a number of ways. A simple way to improve it is to make any existing loan or credit repayments on time and tackle any debts you may have. Repaying more than the minimum amount each month can also help to build up your score.
Even something as simple as registering to vote, if you haven’t already, can improve your credit record. Looking at your profile and working out which area needs improvement is a good starting point.
Can I get a credit card with little to no credit history?
No, you’re unlikely to get a credit card if you don’t have much of a credit history. You won’t have much evidence, if any, to prove you can make repayments on time and manage your finances, so you will find it difficult to get approved for a credit card.
There are cards that are designed for people with little credit history, such as credit builder cards. These can help you to build up your credit history, although they are likely to come with higher interest rates and lower credit limits than credit cards for people with a better credit score.
Is a balance transfer card an option if I have bad credit?
The most competitive balance transfer credit cards will be reserved for those with good credit scores. However, if you are paying interest on an existing credit card, it’s worth seeing if you can move the debt on to a balance transfer card with a lower interest rate.
Bear in mind that, if you have a poor credit history, a balance transfer card is likely to come with stricter terms than it would for someone with a better credit score. For example, it could have a lower credit limit, a higher interest rate, and more limited promotional offers (such as a shorter 0% interest period).
You can check your eligibility for balance transfer credit cards before applying to see if they are an option for you.
Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more
More credit cards
- 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards
- 0% Interest Credit Cards
- 0% Purchase Credit Cards
- Cash Back Credit Cards
- Credit Builder Cards
- Credit Cards
- Life of Balance Transfer Credit Cards
- Low APR Credit Cards
- Low Balance Transfer Fee Credit Cards
- Mastercard Credit Cards
- No Fee Abroad Credit Cards
- Rewards Credit Cards
- Top 0% Balance Transfer and Purchase Credit Cards
- Visa Credit Cards
Helpful links for credit card issues
Money Advice Service - The government's Money Advice Service website provides concise, unbiased information on choosing and using credit cards as well as handy tools such as credit card calculators.
The UK Cards Association - The British trade association for card payment companies has an extensive range of guides on their website covering all the types of payment cards available to UK consumers including debt, credit and prepaid cards
Financial Fraud Action (FFA) UK - The Financial Fraud Action website features important advice on using payment cards safely and securely as well as information on the latest scams.
Financial Ombudsman Service - If you've already made a complaint to your card provider and have not had your issue resolved satisfactorily then the next step is to take up your complaint with the Financial Ombudsman.