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How to check your eligibility for credit cards

All lenders have their own criteria for taking out a credit card. Discover why it’s important to find out your eligibility before you apply and how you can improve your credit score.

GoCompare author
Updated 18 May 2022  | 3 mins read

What is credit card eligibility?

When it comes to taking out a credit card, your eligibility means how likely it is that you’ll be approved for one.

Each lender has their own criteria and conditions that you’ll need to meet for them to accept your application

The downside is that lenders won’t tell you what their criteria are, so you won’t know if you’ll be accepted until you apply. And applying can negatively affect your credit score.

But the good news is that there’s another way of finding out if you’re likely to be approved beforehand and that’s by using an eligibility checker.

Key points

  • Being rejected for a credit card application or applying for too many can negatively affect your credit rating
  • Finding out which cards you’re eligible for before you apply can give you a better chance of success
  • A credit card eligibility checker shows the ones you’re most likely to be approved for
  • There are several ways to improve a low credit score and build your credit history

Why should I check my credit card eligibility before I apply?

If you apply for a credit card and your application’s rejected it can damage your credit rating.

And applying for a number of different cards is risky.

Each time you apply the lender does a hard credit search that’s recorded on your credit file and lenders may see this as a sign you’re struggling financially.

All of this can reduce the chances of you being accepted for a credit card and other types of borrowing in the future.

This is why it’s important to check you’re eligible for a credit card before you apply.

Running a credit card eligibility check won’t affect your credit score, but it’ll quickly let you know which ones you’re most likely to be accepted for.

How do I check if I’m eligible for a credit card?

All you need to do is enter a few basic details about yourself and your finances into a credit card eligibility checker.

It only takes a few minutes to complete and view your results, so you’ll quickly see the likelihood of being accepted for each card.

How do I find out what credit cards I qualify for?

When you put your details into the checker it runs what’s called a ‘soft’ credit search, which doesn’t leave a footprint on your credit rating.

Doing this means lenders can’t see that you’re checking your eligibility, whatever the result happens to be.

The checker will use your information to cross-reference your credit report with different lenders’ criteria to see which cards you’re most likely to be accepted for.

What are the criteria to be eligible for a credit card?

To be accepted for a credit card each lender will have their own criteria that you’ll need to meet, but they can include things like:

  • Being over the age of 18: this applies to almost all credit cards
  • How much you earn: some card providers will ask you to be earning a minimum amount, which can be from £3,000 a year
  • Being in employment: whether you have a regular income that can help you make repayments
  • Your existing debt: this includes any outstanding balance you’ve got on other credit cards, as well as any overdrafts, loans and mortgages
  • Your credit score: this helps lenders to assess how likely it is that you’ll be able to repay your monthly credit card bill
  • Your financial history: any missed payments will be taken into account and if you’ve been declared bankrupt in the past you may not be accepted

Credit card eligibility checker

What does my eligibility rating on the checker mean?

When you get your results you’ll see a percentage next to each card to show the likelihood that your application for it will be successful.

So the higher the percentage, the better the odds that you’ll be approved for the card.

Some cards may be labelled with ‘pre-approval’ - this is the best level of eligibility you can score and it means you should get approval for the card and the interest rates shown.

But remember that there’s still no guarantee you’ll be approved and some conditions may apply.

Do I need a debit card in order to get a credit card?

To be accepted for a credit card you’ll usually need to have a good credit history. Debit cards don’t typically affect your credit score (unless using one takes you over your arranged overdraft limit), so you won’t need a debit card to have a credit card.

But if you haven’t built up a credit record yet, having a current account with direct debits and standing orders can show that you’re able to pay your bills and any overdraft payments on time.

This could help reassure credit card lenders that you’d be able to meet your repayments and might increase your chances of being approved for a card.

Understanding your credit score

Companies use your credit score to decide how reliable you are when you apply for credit.

Your score’s based on how you’ve managed your money and debt in the past. The higher your score, the more likely you are of being approved for credit and to be offered a lower interest rate.

Factors that can negatively affect your score include things like a history of missed payments, making too many credit card applications in a short space of time, and going over your overdraft limit.

Different credit reference agencies each use different scales to assess you, which can range from 0 up to 999 - and your score will be put in a category of fair, good, or excellent.

A good score is likely to mean more choices when it comes to applying for a credit card. But if you’re given a fair score and are approved you might be offered a higher interest rate.

How can I improve my chances of being accepted for a credit card?

There are a few steps you can take to help your application to be successful and to improve your chances of being approved for a card in the future:

  1. Use an eligibility checker

    Do this before you apply so you don’t waste time or risk affecting your credit rating by applying for cards you won’t be approved for

  2. Check the accuracy of your credit report

    Make sure all your details are right and check for things you don’t recognise like missed payments and mystery accounts. If you spot a mistake, contact the credit reference agency to correct it

  3. Get on the electoral roll

    If you haven’t done it already, registering on the electoral roll can make a big difference to building your credit history

  4. Make sure you pay on time

    Late payments will show up on your credit report and can lower your credit score and make you less appealing to lenders

  5. Grow your credit history

    Having a well-managed bank account with an overdraft you keep within the limits can help. You could also look into taking out a credit builder card

  6. Be patient

    If you’ve been rejected for a credit card, wait at least six months before you apply again