6 easy rules for getting accepted for your first credit card

Last Modified 16th of February 2021

Ok so you’ve decided to get your first credit card, whether it’s a Manchester United credit card or a standard card from your bank, you know what charges to look out for and you’ve found a card that looks right for you, but now what? Well if you are an adult with a good salary and a decent credit history you will probably credit card companies falling over each other to give you a credit card, but if you don’t have much of a credit history you might struggle a little bit.

If you are in this situation, and either you are worried you might not be accepted or you have already applied and been rejected, don’t panic! There are things you can do to help your case.

Rule 1: Not all providers have the same criteria

Just because you got rejected for one card doesn’t mean another provider won’t accept you, so don’t give up. The best thing to do is research credit cards that accept people with a tarnished or non-existent credit history, look on forums to see which cards other people have found easiest to get accepted for.

Generally the cards with the best rates and bonuses require a better credit history, so don’t set your sights too high – you can always consider applying for another card with better rates in a year’s time.

Rule 2: Do your research first

Having a credit check damages your credit file, probably because it tips off the provider that you have been applying elsewhere and although your provider can’t see the decision of any previous applications, if you apply for several different cards it starts to look bad for you.

So don’t apply right away – and if you have already applied and been rejected, slow down and do your research before you apply elsewhere. Be realistic about what cards you might actually get and only apply for one at a time.

Rule 3: Pay off other debts first

If you have outstanding debt and a less than perfect credit history then that will be counted against you, so unless you are desperate for the card (which you shouldn’t be anyway) don’t apply until you have at least paid off most of that overdraft or cleared any current balances.

In short, do what you can to make your finances look healthier – just a month or two of careful money management can help.

Rule 4: A no isn’t always a no

If you get rejected, phone up – most applications are made online these days, and most credit card providers have various algorithms which pretty much make the decision automatically. If you get rejected it is always worth calling up the company to ask for a reason.

At worst you will find out what exactly tripped you up, but often by taking more information from you they will in fact be able to reverse that decision anyway. Remember that the credit company needs to make money, so whilst they want to be sure you will repay your debts they do also like less than perfect customers, use that to your advantage.

Rule 5: Really easy options

If your credit is so bad that no credit card company will touch you then there are alternatives; store cards and fuel cards have very low criteria – mostly because of the high fees and interest rates they charge.

You should only consider this option if you are very confident in your ability to manage your money and pay on time, – if not you might just hurt yourself further.

If you go ahead and get a store card; use it sparingly and be really disciplined about paying it off, ideally within a week of making any purchase. If you can get a couple of cards with low limits and use them for 6 months before cancelling them you will probably find that you get accepted for a regular credit card thereafter.

Rule 6: There are alternatives

If you don’t want to get a high risk option like a store card then you could always consider a pre-pay card. These cards are not credit cards per se, as you have to pay in advance and you can only spend what balance you have put in already.

The downside to such cards is that they will not help your credit score, but they do offer the advantages of a credit card that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get – they can be used anywhere a credit card would be accepted and they are also handy as travel cards. Be careful to get one with low fees though.