How to apply for a credit card

Before applying for a credit card, you should do your research and ensure you’re applying for a card that suits you – whether it’s a credit builder card, balance transfer, or pre-paid card. For most cards, you can apply easily online. It’s best to use an eligibility checker first to see your likelihood of acceptance, this can limit rejections.

5 min read
woman on laptop with cat

Our step-by-step guide to applying for a credit card

1. Prepare your finances and credit report

When you take out a credit card, you’re taking on more debt. If you already have outstanding debt like a loan or store cards, it’s best to try and minimise these first. Some credit cards can help you to manage your debt, such as a balance transfer card, but you should make sure that you can manage whatever repayment(s) you’ll end up with.

It’s a good idea to check your credit report too. You can see what sort of rating you have and if you have good or poor credit, as well as fix any errors or mistakes on the report. If you have poor credit or thin credit history, you’ll be limited to credit builder cards and similar products. It’s worth knowing this before you start the process, so you can limit any rejections.

2. Research your options

There are several different types of credit cards on the market. They all have varying terms and conditions so it’s best to find one that’s suitable for you.

For example, if you have any existing bills or balances and you’re wanting to reduce interest, a balance transfer card may be the best option for you. If it’s for a big purchase or to rebuild your credit score, there are also specific cards for that too.

3. Use an eligibility checker

Eligibility checkers show you how likely it is that you’ll be accepted for a product you apply for. To use an eligibility checker, you’ll need to supply a few personal details such as your:

  • name
  • address
  • income
  • occupation
  • if you have any dependents.

Some eligibility checkers will give you an indication of how likely it is that you’ll be accepted for the card, using only a ‘soft search’ - so there’s no trace on your credit file. Others will state whether your application will be accepted or rejected.

This stops you from applying and being rejected for several products. All applications – or ‘hard searches’ - leave a mark on your report, so it’s best to limit your applications and only apply for cards you’re likely to be approved for.

4. Fill in your application

If you’re feeling confident about your score and eligibility, then it’s time to apply.

You may need to either provide a few more details than you did in your eligibility checker, or review your application to get an offer (or rejection) from the lender. The lender will be carrying out a full credit search to confirm you are who you said you are. With most lenders you can apply directly online.

If your application gets rejected

It can be extremely disappointing to get your application or eligibility check rejected. If this happens to you, avoid applying for any other credit straight away. Instead, review your credit report. It might be that your score isn’t quite high enough yet.

Spend some time trying to increase it before you apply again. If you apply for too much credit, too quickly it could give lenders a bad impression. Always remember to do an eligibility check first as this will not affect your score.

If your application gets approved

If your application gets approved, then great news, all you need to do is wait for your card to arrive.

In the meantime, you should thoroughly go over your agreement with the lender to make sure you know all the term, conditions, fees and charges before you start spending.

Always spend responsibly

The most important thing to remember about getting a credit card is to spend responsibly. This means:

  • staying within your limit
  • always making your repayments on time
  • paying at least the minimum every month – but paying more where possible.

Improve your credit rating with Ocean Finance

  • Up to £1,500 credit limit
  • Quickcheck won't impact your credit rating
  • Check your eligibility in 60 seconds
Check now

39.9% APR
Representative (variable)

Intelligent Lending Ltd (credit broker). Capital One is the exclusive lender.