Credit Cards

How to find the right credit card for you

I know what type of credit card I need

Our credit card eligibility calculator will tell you your acceptance chances for a range of credit cards.

  • Check if you'll be accepted before you apply
  • It won't impact your credit score 
  • Join our Credit Club for your Eligibility Rating
Try our Eligibility calculator

What type of credit card is best?

The best credit card for you depends on why you need it:

See all credit card types

How do credit cards work?

A credit card lets you pay for things in advance, using credit borrowed from the card company. It then bills you each month for what you've spent. Unless you repay IN FULL each month, you'll be charged interest on what you owe.

  • They have spending limits, so you can only spend up to a set amount
  • Any balance will accrue interest at an agreed rate
  • Always repay IN FULL each month to avoid paying interest

See our full guide

Watch: Martin Lewis explains credit cards

  • Credit cards are like fire – a great tool if used well...used badly, they can burn
  • Different types of credit card help you cut debt costs, spread the cost of a purchase, get rewards, or are good overseas
  • The right credit card for you depends on what you'll use it for
  • Always check your eligibility before you apply
  • How you manage your credit card will impact your ability to get credit in future

Watch the video, read a transcript, or...

See our full guide

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Try our free Credit Club

Our Credit Club is completely free and provides a range of tools and calculators to give you a sense of how the financial world sees you. As a member you can...
 

Should I be using a credit card when interest rates are so high?

The cost of borrowing has risen in recent years, with average loan and credit card APRs rising in line with the Bank of England base rate. Yet there are some specialist cards which, if used correctly, can help you slash existing debts or avoid paying interest on new borrowing:

  • 0% balance transfer cards  transfer debt from other cards and pay no interest for an agreed number of months
  • 0% purchase cards  spend upfront and get an agreed number of months to pay off the debt interest free
  • 0% money transfer cards  shift cash from a card to a bank account, with an agreed number of months to pay back the debt
There are many other types of specialist credit card   see the full list.

 

Why use MoneySavingExpert's Eligibility Calculator?

When you apply for a credit card, lenders check your financial details to decide if they want to lend to you. This is called a credit check and is recorded on your credit file. Our eligibility calculator lets you check your likelihood of acceptance before you apply and without impacting your credit file. 

  • Find your odds for acceptance before applying for your chosen card. 
  • This won't appear on your credit file (unlike credit card applications)
  • Applying for a credit card can negatively impact your credit file, and could impact your ability to get credit in future

Try our Eligibility Calculator

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Always pay at least the minimum payment

Your monthly card statement will tell you the total balance you owe, the minimum repayment you must make and the due date. Missing the minimum payment will result in a late fee and a mark on your credit file for up to six years.

Yet only making the minimum repayment can keep you in debt for years and even decades. So, if you can, it's always best to pay as much off as possible. For more on how card repayments work, see our credit card minimum repayment calculator.

How do I get a credit card if I have a bad credit score or no credit history?

Having a bad credit score usually means you've not managed credit well in the past (or that you've had very little credit before).

  • It's likely to mean your chances of getting approved for a credit card are low. 
  • if you've no credit history at all – perhaps you’ve never borrowed – you could also find it difficult to get approved, as lenders will have no idea whether or not you’ll pay them back. 

There are ways to improve your credit history, or build it from scratch. Read more on credit cards for bad credit.

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What should I look out for when choosing a credit card?

When choosing a credit card there are a few things to look out for that might indicate the ultimate cost of borrowing: 
 

  • APR – This is represents the annual cost of borrowing, including any interest and fees
  • Minimum repayment – the least you have to pay each month without being fined for a missed payment (you should always pay IN FULL)
  • Annual fee – some cards, particularly rewards cards charge fees for use
  • 0% period – These promotional offers give you a set number of months interest free for balance transfers, spending and/or money transfers

Martin Lewis explains how credit cards work

Martin Lewis: "Credit cards are like fire – a great tool if used well, but used badly, they can burn. There are many types of credit card – they can help you cut debt costs, spread the cost of a purchase, get rewards, or are good overseas. The right credit card for you depends on what you'll use it for."

A few top tips from Martin:
 

  • "If you plan to apply for a credit card, ALWAYS check your eligibility before you apply – our eligibility calculator will show you how likely you are to be accepted for different cards, including whether you're pre-approved for any (meaning you'll definitely get them if you apply). This only requires a 'soft' credit check, so it doesn't affect your credit score or impact your ability to get future credit (whereas a making a full application will, even if you're declined)."

  • "It's important to understand that how you manage your credit card will impact your ability to get credit in future. The most important rule is to ALWAYS pay at least the minimum payment each month – fail to do this and you'll be charged fees and will get a mark on your credit file."

  • "I'm excited we're finally launching the new and improved free MSE Credit Club to newcomers (existing members have already got it) and, within it, the unique Credit Eligibility Rating, which I think's a big step up in showing how things really work."

MoneySaving successes


Below we've featured some fantastic success from MSE users who've used these guides to manage debt via credit cards. If you've found success using our tools or guides, let us know via email.
 

"Paid off more than £5,000 of credit card debt in less than two years thanks to balance transfer cards I had absolutely no idea existed. And, perhaps even more important, I now know how to use credit cards in my favour to leverage rewards"

- Julieta

"I would like to thank you for your credit card calculator. It's helped me gauge my eligibility for certain types of credit cards three times over!" 

 

- Ash

"I spotted a top 0% balance transfer card and thought I've got nothing to lose on a soft search – it came back as 100% pre-approved and I now have a £7,500 credit limit and have transferred all my existing debts on to it. A huge saving!"

- Sam

Credit card FAQs

  • Am I eligible for a credit card?

    Usually, applying to a lender is the only way to know if you'll be accepted for a credit card. Yet that marks your credit file, and could affect your ability to get future credit. Our Eligibility Calculator uses a 'soft search' to calculate and show your chances of acceptance before applying.

  • How do lenders decide whether to give you a credit card?

    You'll need to pass a credit check to get a credit card. This lets the lender work out how 'risky' you are to lend to, and takes into account your income and other financial commitments. It can then either accept or decline you.

    The criteria differs between lenders – you could be accepted by one but declined by another. So it’s better to use an eligibility checker to check your chances of acceptance before applying.

    If you go on to apply, any application will leave a mark on your credit report, even if you’re declined, which could affect your ability to get credit in future (this is especially true if you make multiple applications in a short time period). Read our guide to how credit scoring works for full info.

  • What are the pros and cons of owning a credit card?

    Credit cards are useful if used well, but can be costly and damaging if used badly. The main advantages are that they:

    • Can offer cheap borrowing or rewards
    • Let you spread the cost of a purchase
    • Let you transfer expensive debt to 0% (if you get a balance transfer card)
    • Give you extra protection on purchases
    • Can boost your credit history when managed well, meaning you're more likely to be accepted for credit in future.

    The main disadvantages are that they:

    • Can lead to a build-up of debt if you can’t afford to repay what you borrow
    • Charge interest if you don't clear your full balance each month
    • Can damage your ability to get credit in future if you miss repayments - this is why we say to always pay at least the minimum repayment each month.

    Read more about the pros and cons of credit cards.

  • What does APR mean?

    APR stands for ‘annual percentage rate’, and is is used by lenders to tell you the cost of borrowing.

    Where credit cards are shown as having a 'representative APR', it means only 51% of successful applicants must be given the stated rate. The other 49% could get a different rate (usually higher) – and some people will be rejected altogether.

    Lenders must tell you what the APR is before you sign a credit agreement.

    If you have a card at a special introductory rate (for example a balance transfer credit card at 0% for 28 months), you won’t pay the APR during this time. And if you pay your credit card off in full every month, you won’t pay the APR either.

    Read more about how interest rates work.

  • Can credit card interest rates change?

    Most credit cards come with a ‘variable APR’, which means that the interest lenders charge on borrowing (ie the outstanding balance on a credit card) can go up or down, depending on market fluctuations. Your lender will have to tell you if they plan to change your credit card APR.

    You can get also 'fixed APR' cards, where lenders guarantee that they won’t raise or lower the rate for a fixed period of time, although these are less common and are usually have higher interest rates.

    Read more about how interest rates work.

  • What is credit scoring?

    Credit scoring is a process used by credit card companies and other lenders to decide whether or not they want to lend to you. This process is largely based on information they get from the credit reference agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – who hold information about your credit history. They will also use data from your application form, and information from any accounts you've had with that financial firm in the past.

    Broadly, it means that if you’ve a history of repaying debts in full and on time, you’ll have a better chance of getting accepted than if you’ve a history of missed payments. 

    Read more about how credit scoring works and how to check your credit report for free.

  • What happens if I miss a repayment on my credit card?

    If you miss a repayment, or don't make the minimum payment amount on your credit card bill each month, you'll typically be charged a late payment fee of around £10, and it will be marked on your credit file for up to six years. This could mean your ability to get credit in future takes a hit.

  • What if I get rejected for a credit card?

    You could get rejected for a credit card for a number of reasons – it’s a murky business as lenders are not required to tell you why they've decided to turn you down. It could be down to you having a bad credit history, or if they think you'll be risky to lend to.

    Unfortunately, if you're rejected for a credit card this will usually have an impact on your credit score – especially if you make multiple applications in a short space of time. That’s why we suggest using our credit card eligibility checker to check your chances of being accepted for a wide array of credit cards, without endangering your credit score.

  • Can I get a joint credit card?

    Although in the UK you can't technically get a joint credit card, you can usually opt to have additional cardholders linked to your credit card account (most often a relative or family member). But as the main cardholder, you'll remain solely responsible for the debt, regardless of who's done the spending. 

    So think carefully before adding any additional cardholders. If they go on a spending spree, even without your permission, you'll be the one responsible for making the payments and clearing the balance. 

    You can find out more in joint credit cards explained

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