Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit 2018

We've analyzed UK credit-builder cards for poor credit to find the best ones to help you improve your credit rating. Check out our recommendations, which we tailored to specific categories and consumer needs (e.g., no job, no credit history, etc.). In each, we identify a few cards based on the best features. If you're not sure where to start check out our How to Improve Your Credit Score Guide.

The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.

  • Learning
    How Does a Credit Card for Poor Credit Work?
  • Comparing
    Summary of the Best Credit Builder Cards for Bad Credit
  • Choosing
    How To Pick a Credit Card for Bad Credit for You

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Whether you have a bad credit score or just a very limited credit history, there are specialist credit cards which may accept your application for a new card. If you find yourself in this situation, expect a credit card to charge higher-than-average interest rates while you work to improve your credit score with responsible financial management, such as paying on time each and every month and always staying under your credit limit. One way to avoid potentially high interest charges is by paying off your full balance each and every month.

While these cards for bad credit may offer 100% "Guaranteed Approval" if you use their eligibility checkers, you may still be turned down—for instance, if they identify certain information on fraud prevention databases or if they're not able to verify your identity. All of the cards listed below are "free," meaning they don't charge an annual fee. While there is no one "best" card for everyone, hopefully you can find a card that is best for your individual situation.

Vanquis Classic Card

Consider this if you have bad credit.

Purchase Rate (variable) 39.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Vanquis Credit Builder card can be a good option for those who are worried about getting a credit card due to a poor credit history and might not be able to get one elsewhere. Vanquis will consider applicants with no credit history, for a first credit card, or those with bad credit—interest rates are higher as a result. The initial credit limit will be between £150 and £1,000. Stay within your credit limit and pay your monthly minimum payment on time (ideally paying the FULL balance each month to avoid interest charges—as with all credit builder cards, carrying a balance from month to month is expensive), and you may be eligible for credit limit increases every 5th month. Good account management may also help to improve your credit rating, as it shows responsible card management.

Use Vanquis's Express Check eligibility checker to see your odds of being accepted before you apply.

Pros
  • Possible first credit card (no credit history needed)
  • Express Check eligibility checker (instant, 60 second answer)
  • Online & SMS account management
  • Mobile app
  • No annual fee
  • Initial credit limit between £150 and £1,000
  • Possible credit limit increases every 5 months, up to £4,000 subject to good account management
Cons
  • Higher-than-average interest rate

Chrome Credit Card by Vanquis

Consider this if you have a weak credit rating.

Purchase Rate (variable) 29.3%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Chrome Credit Card by Vanquis can be a good option for those who may only be eligible for a "credit builder" card but want to lock in a lower interest rate than might be found on, say, the Vanquis Classic. The Chrome is the lowest APR card on offer by Vanquis, charging a representative variable APR of 29.3%. However, as a credit builder card the interest is still high enough to rack up significant interest charges should you carry a balance from month to month. The initial credit limit will be between £250 and £1,000. Stay within your credit limit and pay (at least!) your monthly minimum payment on time, and your good account management may help to improve your credit rating.

Unfortunately, the Chrome card doesn't offer a pre-application eligibility check. We hope this is a feature that will be added sometime in the future, as we think it's pretty important on a credit builder card, in particular.

Pros
  • Online & SMS account management
  • Mobile app
  • No annual fee
  • Initial credit limit between £250 and £1,000
  • Possible credit limit increases every 5 months, up to £4,000 subject to good account management
Cons
  • Higher-than-average interest rate (but lower than some credit builder cards)
  • No eligibility check

Aquis Credit Card by Vanquis

Consider this if you have a weak credit rating.

Purchase Rate (variable) 29.8%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Aquis Credit Card by Vanquis is another option for those in the market for a "credit builder" card. The representative variable APR of 29.8% is just a touch higher than the Chrome card (above), with a cash APR that should be equal to the purchase APR. While this makes the cash APR attractive relative to the Vanquis cards, we still don't recommend withdrawing cash with the Aquis because using credit cards is an expensive way to get cash. As always, stay within your credit limit and pay (at least!) your monthly minimum payment on time, and your good account management may help to improve your credit rating.

Unfortunately, the Aquis card doesn't offer a pre-application eligibility check. We hope this is a feature that will be added sometime in the future, as we think it's pretty important on a credit builder card, in particular.

Pros
  • Online & SMS account management
  • Mobile app
  • No annual fee
  • Initial credit limit between £250 and £1,000
  • Possible credit limit increases every 5 months, up to £4,000 subject to good account management
Cons
  • Higher-than-average interest rate (but lower than some credit builder cards)
  • No eligibility check

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit: Aqua Classic Credit Card

Consider this if you have poor credit and/or a low income, and want free text alerts.

Purchase Rate (variable) 29.7%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.95%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Classic Credit Card is a great credit-builder card and, apparently, Aqua's most popular card. The Classic will consider those with poor credit, including the self-employed, individuals who've had trouble with late payments in the past and those with low income. Expect initial credit limits to fall between £250 and £1,200. We particularly like that good financial management can lead to a rise in your credit limit (which might improve your credit score, especially once it breaks £1,000) AND the free text alerts can let you know when you're nearing your credit limit (which will fall between £250 and £1,200). Plus, up to twice a year you can change the payment date to another more suitable date.

By making payments on time and staying within the credit limit your limit may increase, which in turn can improve your credit rating. While the interest rate is high, you can avoid interest charges by paying your full balance each month. We wouldn't recommend carrying a balance from month to month on the Aqua Classic card.

Pros
  • Free text alerts
  • Eligibility checker
  • Interest rate may reduce by 5% a year for "good behavior"
  • No annual fee
Cons
  • Higher-than-average interest rate of 29.7% variable APR on purchases (but lower-than-average for a card for weak credit)

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit: Aqua Start Credit Card

Consider this if you don't have any credit history and you want your first credit card.

Purchase Rate (variable) 49.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.95%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Aqua Start Credit Card is Aqua's entry-level card, with the loosest income and credit history requirements. Initial credit limits are low, between £100 and £300, until you prove your ability to pay back your debts. Accounts are reviewed every four to six months and—if you have stayed within your credit limit and made your monthly minimum payments on time—your credit limit is likely to increase in future. Pay down as much of your balance as possible each month to minimize interest charges, which could be substantial since the interest rate is higher than average, even for a credit builder card.

Free text alerts can let you know when you're nearing your credit limit, plus you can change the payment date to another more suitable date, up to twice a year.

Pros
  • Free text alerts
  • Eligibility checker
  • No annual fee
  • Possible first credit card (applications with no credit history are considered)
  • Potential to increase credit limit (starts between £100 and £300)
Cons
  • Higher-than-average bad credit interest rate

Best 0 Credit Card for New Credit: Barclaycard Initial

Consider this if you don't have any credit history.

Purchase Rate (variable) 34.9%
0% on Purchases for up to up to 3 months
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 2.99% (min £2.99)

The Barclaycard Initial Credit Card offers an unusual perk for a credit-builder card—a 0% purchases period in which you won't pay interest on purchases for 3 months. provided you stay within your credit limit and making your minimum payments on time. Showing good financial management should also cause your interest rate (which starts at 34.9% variable) to drop within the first 12 months—an improvement which could improve your credit rating. Designed for those with limited or no credit history, applicants must prove they can pay their debts by showing an income of £3,000 per year. Customer service told us that proof of your first month's paycheck from a part-time job may be enough to be accepted. Besides being employed, you should have lived at your current address for at least three months.

Barclaycard offers a pre-application soft eligibility check that won't adversely affect your credit rating. Once enabled, free alerts can include your weekly account balance, statement availability, payment received, payment due reminder, balance limit alert and your pre-set monthly limit alert—we highly recommend setting up the free alerts as they can help you stay on top of your account and improve your credit by avoiding missed payments or exceeding the credit limit.

Pros
  • Free text/email alerts
  • Eligibility checker
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on purchases first three months
  • Chance to reduce interest rate by 5% over two years
  • Possible first credit card
  • £150 to £1,200 initial credit limit
Cons
  • Need income from part-time employment (£3,000 per year minimum)
  • Higher-than-average interest rate (but average for a card for bad credit)

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit or Building Credit: Capital One Classic Credit Card

Consider this if you have a bit of credit history and would like a user-friendly mobile app.

Purchase Rate (variable) 34.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.75%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Capital One Classic might work for you if you're currently between jobs or self employed, as there is no strict income requirement. Potential applicants do need some credit history in the UK, however, such as a current account with direct debits to pay for a mobile phone, gas or electric bill. The card is targeted at those with bad credit or building credit, and proper use can help you establish a good payment history.

Capital One could reward you for paying (at least) your monthly minimum payments on time and staying within your credit limit. By doing so you may be eligible to receive two optional credit limit increases a year, which may improve your credit rating. As a credit-builder card, the APR is higher than average, so try to pay as much of the balance as you can every month to help you limit interest charges. Before applying, you can check your odds of being accepted using Capital One's eligibility checker, QuickCheck, which won't harm your credit score.

Pros
  • Free alerts
  • QuickCheck Eligibility checker
  • Mobile app
  • No annual fee
  • Two possible credit limit increases per year
  • Credit limit between £200 and £1,500
  • No strict income requirement
  • Need some credit history in UK
Cons
  • Higher-than-average interest rate (but average for a card for bad credit)

Best Credit Cards for Bad or Poor Credit: Marbles Credit Card

Consider this if you want a solid credit-building card.

Purchase Rate (variable) 34.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 0.03
FX Fee 2.95%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Marbles Card is another great credit card for applicants with a poor credit history. Marbles may start you off with a low initial credit limit of £100 to £250, which can be a good thing to prevent debt from building up. Once you demonstrate responsible financial management (i.e., paying at least the monthly minimum payment on time each month and staying within your credit limit) your credit limit may increase. The limit is reviewed after 3 months, so you could get a credit limit increase on your 4th statement.

Marbles charges a higher-than-average interest rate (like all credit-builder cards). You can avoid high interest charges by paying down the full balance every month. Marbles offers a "soft" eligibility checker which has no impact on your credit rating: FastCheck shows your chances of being accepted before you apply. Another card feature we like is the ability to choose a monthly repayment date that suits you, perhaps just after pay day or to coincide with other bills to help you remember to pay on time.

Pros
  • Possible first credit card (no credit history needed)
  • Free SMS alerts
  • Eligibility checker
  • Mobile app
  • No annual fee
  • Chance to increase credit limit after three months
Cons
  • Higher-than-average interest rate (but average for a card for bad credit)

Best Store Cards for Bad Credit

A store card can let you earn rewards when you spend. There aren't many store cards for poor credit, but the Tesco Foundation card lets you earn Clubcard points whilst improving your credit.

Tesco Foundation Credit Card

Consider this if you want a store card for bad credit.

Purchase Rate (variable) 27.5%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.75%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Tesco Foundation Credit Card can be a great option for those with a weak credit history who also want to earn some rewards on Tesco shops. You can collect 1 Clubcard point for every £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 point for every £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco, although some products at Tesco don't earn points. While we don't recommend carrying a balance from month to month on any credit-builder card, especially, due to higher interest rates, we like that the Tesco Foundation card has a higher minimum payment floor of £25—for anyone paying the minimum amount each month, this small detail can potentially save hundreds of pounds in interest charges over time, versus a minimum payment floor of £5 which is common. A nice touch that feels like Tesco Bank is looking out for the cardholder.

Pros
  • Free email/SMS alerts
  • Eligibility checker
  • Mobile app
  • No annual fee
  • Minimum monthly payments at least £25 (important for paying off debt quicker and reducing interest charges!)
  • Lower-than-average interest rates for a credit-builder card
Cons

Best Credit-Builder Cards for Travel

There are two credit cards on the market for those working to improve their credit who also like to travel. If you tick these boxes, we'd recommend you look at the Aqua Advance and the Aqua Rewards cards. Neither one charges a fee on non-sterling transactions made abroad when you're out of the UK (but avoid withdrawing cash from ATMS abroad or in the UK).

Best Credit Card for Poor Credit Rewards and Travel: Aqua Reward

Consider this if you want to earn rewards but don't want to pay FX fees on a credit-builder card.

Purchase Rate (variable) 39.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee none
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Aqua Reward Credit Card is Aqua's card with the most benefits. Besides rewarding cardholders with 0.5% cashback on purchases, the card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees on non-sterling spending making it a great travel card. While this card is fee-free when used for non-sterling purchases abroad, there is still a cash fee so we wouldn't recommend taking out money from an ATM, whether at home or abroad—plus interest starts accruing immediately on cash withdrawals. There aren't very many rewards credit cards available to those with weaker credit scores, making this a unique card.

Cashback rewards are paid out once a year, so long as you have not been late paying at least the minimum payment each month and you've stayed within the credit limit. Demonstrating responsible management of your financial obligations in this way should also serve to improve your credit score over time. Rewards are capped at £100 each year, but we don't expect this limit will affect most cardholders, as it would take £20,000 of spending a year to accumulate £100 in cashback. As you'd expect, since Aqua will consider applications from those with a limited credit history or income, the credit cards carry a high interest rate on purchases. If you can pay off the full balance every month, though, you won't be affected by the high interest rates.

Pros
  • Free email/SMS alerts
  • Eligibility checker
  • Mobile app
  • No annual fee
  • Earn 0.5% cashback on your purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • You'll lose all rewards if you miss a payment
  • There's still a fee on foreign cash withdrawals (and higher interest charges)
  • Higher-than-average interest rate of 39.9% variable APR on purchases (but average for a card for weaker credit)

Best Credit Card for Poor Credit Rewards and Travel: Aqua Advance

Consider this if you want a credit-builder card that doesn't charge FX fees when you travel.

Purchase Rate (variable) 34.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee none
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Aqua Advance Credit Card is a good card for credit builders who travel abroad, because it doesn't charge non-sterling transaction fees. That means you can use the card for purchases abroad without finding unwelcome FX transaction charges on your statement when you return home. (Most credit cards charge a fee around 3% of any transaction in another currency.) We don't recommend using the card for cash withdrawals, however, as you'll incur a 3% (£3 minimum) cash fee, plus higher interest charges.

While the Aqua Advance interest rate on purchases is higher than average (34.9% variable), by staying within the credit limit and paying the minimum payment (or more) on time each month, your interest rate should drop by 5% a year for three years. After three years of this "good behaviour" your interest rate may be as low as 19.9%. Not only will you benefit from a lower interest rate, but a drop in interest rate is communicated to the credit agencies and should help your credit rating. If possible, pay more than the minimum each month, to limit interest charges and avoid debt from building up.

Pros
  • Free email/SMS alerts
  • Eligibility checker
  • Mobile app
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • There's still a fee on foreign cash withdrawals (and higher interest charges)
  • Higher-than-average interest rate (but average for a card for bad credit)

How Can You Improve Your Credit Rating with a Credit Card?

Whether you have no UK credit history (e.g., you are young and/or new to the UK) or your credit score is low (e.g., due to CCJs, late payments, etc.) applying for a credit card can be a challenge—if you pick the wrong card. Applicants without a strong credit history will have the most luck applying for a credit-builder card. These cards are open to weaker applicants but charge higher-than-average interest rates and tend to offer lower credit limits. We'd recommend carrying out a card's eligibility check as part of your application process, to see if you're likely to be accepted or not.

Once you have your card, you can use it to take steps to build up your credit rating. Most important will be always staying under your credit limit, paying at least the minimum amount due each month and always paying on time. Many of the cards on this page will also lower your interest rate or increase your credit limit if you demonstrate this responsible credit card management, which may improve your credit rating even further.

There are other ways to start building up a credit history, beyond your credit card. The Money Advice Service suggests:

Ways to Build Your Credit History
Open and Manage a Bank AccountKeep enough money in your current account to cover any payments; An interest-free overdraft is an alternative to a credit card
Set Up Direct DebitsSet up regular direct debits to pay gas, electricity, or mobile phone bills
Pay All Bills On TimeMissed or late payments will negatively affect your credit score

We mentioned that paying at least the minimum amount each month is crucial to improving your credit limit. While this is true, credit builder cards typically charge higher interest rates so we'd advise paying the entire balance each month (not just the minimum) to avoid interest charges and prevent debt from building up—or at least paying as much as possible. To learn about why the low minimum payment floor of some cards can lead to drastically high interest charges over time, please read our article How the Minimum Payment Floor on Your Credit Card Could Cost You Hundreds of Pounds.

Summary of Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Below is a summary of student card across different categories.

Best For...CardQuick Overview
Poor CreditAqua ClassicEligibility checker; purchase APR 35.95% variable (up to 59.95%); credit limit may increase for "good behavior"; initial credit limit between £250 and £1,200; free text alerts when near credit limit/approaching payment date; can change payment date
First Credit CardAqua StartPossible first credit card; low initial credit limit between £100 and £300; potential to increase credit limit; purchase APR 49.94% variable (up to 69.9%); free text alerts when near credit limit; can change payment date
Poor CreditBarclaycard InitialNeed income from part-time employment (£3,000 per year minimum); 0% on purchases first three months; chance to reduce interest rate within the first 12 months; purchase APR 34.9% variable; pre-application eligibility check; £150 to £1,200 initial credit limit
Poor Credit, Low IncomeCapital One ClassicNo income requirement; need some credit history in UK; two possible credit limit increases per year; purchases APR 34.9% variable; credit limit between £200 and £1,500; QuickCheck eligibility checker
Poor Credit, First CardMarblesPossible first credit card (no credit history needed); eligibility check; chance to increase credit limit after three months; free SMS text alerts; purchases APR 34.9% variable
Bad Credit, Previous Bankruptcy/CCJsVanquis ClassicPotential first credit card or card for those with bad credit, can be an option if you can't get a card elsewhere; initial credit limit £150 to £1,000; possible credit limit increases; purchases 39.9% APR variable (up to 79.9%); Express Check eligibility checker; monthly fee to access Repayment Option Plan (including text alerts)

How to Choose a Credit Builder Card for You

There are credit builder cards for all kinds of situations: new to credit, building credit, poor credit, part-time income, no income, etc. Finding the right credit card for you can be easy if you consider a few defining features of your financial situation:

If you're prone to paying only the minimum monthly payment each month, finding a card with the lowest APR and the highest minimum monthly payment may help you to pay back your debt sooner with fewer total interest charges. You might be better off with a low APR card like the AA Low Rate Credit Card, with its 6.5% representative APR—use their eligibility checker to see your odds of being accepted before you apply, especially if your credit history is spotty.

You'll notice that a common feature of cards suitable for those with a poor credit history is a relatively low credit limit. A key component of your future credit rating is staying within this credit limit so be sure you're aware of it.

Only those with a bit of responsible payment history and a solid credit score are likely to be accepted for credit cards with perks, like cashback rewards (e.g., Aqua Rewards) and no foreign transaction fees (e.g., Aqua Rewards and Aqua Advance). If you're applying for your first credit card, you may be limited to a simple, no frills card that will enable you to build up a history of staying within your credit limit and paying on time. Once you've established a healthy credit history, you can think about upgrading for a card with perks.

Most cards offer a "soft" eligibility checker that will tell you if you're likely to be accepted or not. Where possible, use an eligibility check to tell you your odds of being accepted before you apply. If you're unsure if you satisfy the credit history requirements (which can be a bit vague), this is a useful step in the application process.

Credit builder cards can be extremely costly if you carry a balance from month to month. If you find yourself struggling to pay back your outstanding debt, you may want to get free debt advice from organizations including the National Debtline, Citizens Advice Bureau and StepChange Debt Charity.

The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.