Applying for a credit card

 

Applying for a credit card is no different to applying for any sort of borrowing. The lender will take your personal information, income, outgoings and any existing debt into account, including personal loans and balances on other credit cards. They will also run a check on your credit history to see if you have had any credit problems in the past.

You can check your own credit history through credit references companies such as Experian (www.uk.experian.com) or Equifax (www.equifax.co.uk), for a fee. Depending on the service, you may also be able to query or correct errors on your file that may be preventing you from obtaining credit.

If you have no credit history
If you have never had a credit card or personal loan, you may find yourself in a position where you have no credit history, so you may have limited options as to which credit cards you will be accepted for. In this instance, the bank where you hold your current account may be the best starting point.

Banks often offer introductory ‘student’ credit cards with low spending limits and slightly lower interest. However, these do not often come with the best interest rates.

To help you build a credit history, you may want to acquire one of these cards but use it sparingly or not at all. After a few months, your credit history may have improved sufficiently for you to apply for a standard card offering lower interest rates.

If you have poor credit
Bad credit will unquestionably restrict your options for choosing a credit card. However, many issuers will consider giving credit cards to people with poor credit under certain conditions. They may offer a higher interest rate and lower spending limit, for example, depending on your specific credit history.
 
Credit card agreements
Credit card agreements are governed by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. The Act licenses lenders and compels them to show buyers the true cost of credit; it also protects consumers against "extortionate" rates of credit.

However, even credit charged at standard rates can add up quickly, so if you are having trouble making repayments on an outstanding balance, contact your credit card issuer immediately.

The earlier you contact the lender, the more likely they are to try to help you meet your repayments. They may suggest a different payment schedule, or an alternative card with a lower interest rate.

But don’t ignore the problem simply hoping it will go away, because unfortunately it won’t.

 
Once you tarnish your credit record, it is a long and difficult process to improve your standing, and you may find any future credit agreements you wish to enter may be refused, until you return your account to order.

 


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