Living in the UK

Getting your first UK credit card

If you’re new to the UK and have no credit history here then it will be difficult for you to get a credit card. Once you’ve built your credit score, however, you may wish to apply for one.

This article details what you can do to build your credit score and what you may wish to consider before getting your first UK credit card.

Requirements for getting a UK credit card

Final decisions to lend money are always down to the discretion of the individual credit card provider, however, you must meet these minimum requirements before applying:

  • You must be a UK resident
  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must not be legally restricted from obtaining credit such as bankruptcy

Some lenders may wish for you to be in full-time employment and earn over a certain amount each year for you to be accepted.

Even if you meet all of these requirements, you should remember that there is no guarantee that you will be accepted.

How does a credit card work?

‘Credit’ refers to the money in which you borrow, whether this is an overdraft, loan or credit card.

Lenders will always run a credit check when you apply for any type of credit. If you are approved for a credit card, the lender will set you a credit limit. This limit is the maximum amount of money you can access to pay for goods or services. You then pay back the money you borrow each month, you can do this by the set minimum payment the lender has worked out for you, your chosen amount (if over the minimum payment), or pay the money back in full. Remember, to use a credit card, there is also interest added if you have an ongoing balance.

Comparing credit cards

When comparing credit cards, some things you may wish to consider are:

  • Interest: This is the charge on a credit card for the cost of borrowing money from the lender. When comparing credit cards, look out for the ‘Representative APR’. This is the rate offered to at least 51% of customers who are offered that card. It’s not necessarily the rate you’ll be offered, as it’s based on your financial circumstances and credit history. So, you could possibly be offered a higher rate than the one advertised.
  • Introductory APR: Some credit cards come with lower or 0% interest rates that last for a few months. Once these few months are up, they go back to the standard variable rate. This can be useful for spreading the costs of purchases, but make sure you pay off your balance before the introductory rate ends.
  • Credit limit: As mentioned above, a credit limit is a maximum amount you can borrow on your credit card. Just like the APR, your credit limit also depends on your credit history and finances. First-time borrowers may not be offered a high limit. However, paying your balance on time could mean the lender offers to increase your limit.
  • Fees: It is also important to make yourself aware of any extra fees you may be charged. For instance, these could be late payment fees, foreign transactions or cash withdrawal fees.

This article has been written as a guide to provide information only. If you have any financial queries, then please consult a professional.

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