The Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Updated: 18th April, 2019.

We’ve vetted some of the most popular credit cards on the market to bring you our shortlist of the best credit cards for bad credit. Whether your credit score is low because you filed for bankruptcy or you haven’t been practicing good credit hygiene, our picks could get you on the right path to making your credit score shine.

Here are MyWalletHero’s picks for the best credit cards for bad credit.

Great for: Building and rebuilding credit
5 stars question mark

If you are looking for a credit rebuilder card that offers you more than just access to credit, the Tesco Bank Foundation Card does just that. It offers free access to Noddle Premium services and Tesco Clubcard benefits, as well as a comparatively low APR and manageable credit limits.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Free service to help manage credit rating
  • Collect Tesco Clubcard points

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 27.5% APR (variable)
Interest rate on purchases 27.5% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Free service to help manage credit rating
  • Collect Tesco Clubcard points
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    27.5%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 4/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Free service to help manage credit rating
  • Collect Tesco Clubcard points

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 27.5% APR (variable)
Interest rate on purchases 27.5% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Great for: Getting cash back while building credit
5 stars question mark

Building your credit is much sweeter when you’re getting cashback rewards at the same time. The aqua reward Cashback Credit Card can help those looking to build or rebuild their credit, and at the same time, cardholders earn 0.5% cashback on their spending (up to £100 per year). There’s also no fee on spending abroad, a very nice feature if you like to travel.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0.5% cash back on purchases up to £100 per year
  • Initial credit limit £250-£1,200
  • Could help build or rebuild credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative 34.9% APR variable
If you borrowed (over 12 months) £1,200

what we like

  • 0.5% cash back on purchases up to £100 per year
  • Initial credit limit £250-£1,200
  • Could help build or rebuild credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    34.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 5/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0.5% cash back on purchases up to £100 per year
  • Initial credit limit £250-£1,200
  • Could help build or rebuild credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative 34.9% APR variable
If you borrowed (over 12 months) £1,200
Great for: Building credit and traveling
5 stars question mark

It can be tough to find a great card offer when you’re building or re-building your credit. The Tandem Journey Credit Card may be worth a look, as it offers more than most. For starters, the APR on the Journey card is very attractive compared to the competition. There’s no annual fee on the card, and, even better, you’ll pay no extra fees on foreign spending if you travel. And, of course, responsible use of the card could lead to improvements in your credit score.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Potential to build credit over time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Annual purchase rate (variable) 24.9%
Representative APR (variable) 24.9%
Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200

You may be offered a different credit limit or APR to that shown here as it depends on your individual circumstances. Subject to eligibility and credit assessment.

what we like

  • Potential to build credit over time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    24.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 3/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Potential to build credit over time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Annual purchase rate (variable) 24.9%
Representative APR (variable) 24.9%
Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200

You may be offered a different credit limit or APR to that shown here as it depends on your individual circumstances. Subject to eligibility and credit assessment.

Great for: Lowering your APR while building credit
4 stars question mark

The aqua advance Card includes many of the features that make other aqua cards great for those looking to build or re-build credit. As an added bonus though, users of the Advance Card that stay on time with their payments will see their APR go down by 5% per year. Over time, this could bring the APR down to 19.9%.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stay on time with payments and APR reduces 5% per year
  • Keeping on time with payments could reduce APR to 19.9%
  • Free aqua credit checker
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative rate 34.9% APR variable
Based on borrowing £1,200 over 12 months

what we like

  • Stay on time with payments and APR reduces 5% per year
  • Keeping on time with payments could reduce APR to 19.9%
  • Free aqua credit checker
  • No annual fee
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    34.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 3/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stay on time with payments and APR reduces 5% per year
  • Keeping on time with payments could reduce APR to 19.9%
  • Free aqua credit checker
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative rate 34.9% APR variable
Based on borrowing £1,200 over 12 months
Great for: Credit repair with a lower starting APR
4 stars question mark

Vanquis Bank’s Chrome Credit Card offers a comparably low representative APR of just 29.5% to those with a limited credit history or past problems. That can be a welcome sight, as APRs for most other credit cards for bad credit start at 35%. Credit limits start at a manageable level of up to £1,000, but can be built up to £4,000 over time.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR compared to most other credit-building cards
  • Starting credit limit of £250 to £1,000
  • Possibility to build credit limit to £4,000
  • Managing your card well could lead to credit-rating improvements
  • Easy account management via online portal and mobile app

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 29.5% APR (variable)

Rates from 29.5% APR (variable) to 59.9% APR (variable) depending on individual circumstances.

what we like

  • Credit limit could increase to £4,000 over time
  • Comparably low starting APR
  • No annual fee
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    29.5%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    Starting credit limit of up to £1,000

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR compared to most other credit-building cards
  • Starting credit limit of £250 to £1,000
  • Possibility to build credit limit to £4,000
  • Managing your card well could lead to credit-rating improvements
  • Easy account management via online portal and mobile app

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 29.5% APR (variable)

Rates from 29.5% APR (variable) to 59.9% APR (variable) depending on individual circumstances.

Great for: Building or Rebuilding Credit
3.5 stars question mark

If your mission is to get your credit back on good footing, the Vanquis Aquis credit card could be an ally in that mission. With no annual fee and a manageable starting credit limit, this credit-builder card is simple and straightforward. The APR isn’t among the highest, but it’s still high enough that you should avoid carrying a balance.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annaul fee
  • Credit limit increases possible starting at 5th statement
  • Online eligibility checker

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 29.8% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 29.8% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,000

what we like

  • No annaul fee
  • Credit limit increases possible starting at 5th statement
  • Online eligibility checker
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    29.8%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annaul fee
  • Credit limit increases possible starting at 5th statement
  • Online eligibility checker

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 29.8% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 29.8% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,000
Great for: Building credit
3 stars question mark

The aqua Classic credit card is one of the more straightforward credit cards for bad credit, open to those with a bad credit history, money problems in the past or on low incomes, as well as the self-employed. Maximum initial credit limit is £1,200, although if you handle your card sensibly aqua may increase this pretty quickly. Extra features can also help you understand your credit score, and make every monthly payment.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Text reminders to remind on payments

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Your interest rate for purchases is 35.95% p.a. variable
With a representative 35.9% APR variable
If you borrowed (over 12 months) £1,200

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Text reminders to remind on payments
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    35.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Text reminders to remind on payments

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Your interest rate for purchases is 35.95% p.a. variable
With a representative 35.9% APR variable
If you borrowed (over 12 months) £1,200
Great for: Just starting to build or re-build credit
3 stars question mark

Let’s face it, when you’re just starting to build or re-build credit, getting approved for a credit card can be tough. The Marbles Credit Card doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles. And the APRs start high and can be higher for some applicants. But, it can be an opportunity to show good credit behaviour and build to other cards.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Online eligibility checker
  • Spending alerts to help avoid missteps

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 34.9% APR (variable)

The APR applicable to your account will depend on assessment of your application.

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Online eligibility checker
  • Spending alerts to help avoid missteps
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    34.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Online eligibility checker
  • Spending alerts to help avoid missteps

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 34.9% APR (variable)

The APR applicable to your account will depend on assessment of your application.

Great for: Rebuilding credit
2 stars question mark

The Vanquis Classic Credit Card is a higher APR card without some of the features of other cards here. However, for those who qualify, this card can still be a great way to rebuild your credit score and use as a stepping stone to better cards in the future.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable starting credit limit between £150 and £1,000
  • You could get a credit limit increase after your fifth statement, up to £4,000 if you manage your account well
  • Online and SMS account management

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 39.9% APR (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,000
Annual rate of interest 39.9% APR (variable)

Rates from 39.9% APR (variable) to 69.9% APR (variable) depending on individual circumstances.

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • You could get a credit limit increase after your fifth statement
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    39.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable starting credit limit between £150 and £1,000
  • You could get a credit limit increase after your fifth statement, up to £4,000 if you manage your account well
  • Online and SMS account management

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 39.9% APR (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,000
Annual rate of interest 39.9% APR (variable)

Rates from 39.9% APR (variable) to 69.9% APR (variable) depending on individual circumstances.


While having no credit history or a poor credit score may make it more difficult to get a credit card, it is not impossible. There is now a whole market dedicated to cards for people with bad credit histories. While you won’t get large sign-up bonuses or long interest-free periods with these types of card, you will have the chance to start building a positive credit history.

These cards typically offer lower, more manageable credit limits, have lower eligibility criteria for applicants and have a higher APR than most credit cards. They are designed to encourage good borrowing practices, with some cards increasing their credit limits or lowering their APR if you display the desired borrowing behaviour – keeping within your credit limit and making your monthly payments on time.

Knowing which cards will give you the highest chance of approval is key and will help you make the first step towards improving your credit score. We’ve shortlisted some of the most popular cards for those with bad credit.

Here’s why we have chosen our shortlist. You can also check out our tips around using cards designed for those with a poor credit history.

How we picked the winners

You may feel pushed into a corner with not many options if you have no credit history or have a poor credit score, but you don’t have to feel that way. There is more variety than you would expect in the market.

Here are the criteria we used to sift through the cards for people with poor credit histories.

  • A high chance of approval – Cards that have lower eligibility criteria and for which your application is more likely to be considered, even if you have had financial issues in the past or are on a low income or a student.
  • Potential to build credit over time – Cards that offer the chance to improve your credit score and potentially unlock further credit in the future.
  • No annual fees – You shouldn’t have to pay fees just to increase your credit score.
  • Tools to help you along – Whether this means ongoing access to your credit rating or automated alerts to help you keep on track, we like card issuers that try to make it easier for you to build or rebuild your credit.

What is considered a bad credit history?

How do you know if you have a bad credit history? There are three main credit rating agencies (CRAs) in the UK: Equifax, Experian and Callcredit (under the brand name Noddle). You can apply to check your credit score with all three. Noddle and Clearscore (which uses Equifax’s data) offer services such as free access to your credit report for life. Alternatively, you can get free 30-day trials of more comprehensive credit-checking services from Experian and Equifax, which will include your full credit report.

Each CRA has a different way of scoring consumers. Experian defines a score of anything below 720 as ‘poor’, for Equifax ‘poor’ is 379 or below, and Callcredit uses the grades of number 2 (‘poor’) or number 1 (‘very poor’).

Your credit score is calculated from the following information.

  • Your full name and date of birth
  • Electoral roll information to confirm your current address and previous addresses
  • All loans, credit cards and mortgage accounts
  • Current account overdraft
  • Previous application searches and footprints
  • Joint accounts
  • Any missed repayments and how frequent they are
  • History of debt
  • Information about whether your identity has been used for fraud.

7 things to consider when applying for a credit card with a bad credit history

1. Don’t apply for cards that are out of your reach

Each credit card application you make can lower your credit score, as multiple credit searches could indicate you’re having problems. Therefore, check the card’s eligibility criteria before making your application. The criteria will often be found on the card provider’s website. Or, if you read our reviews for cards for people with bad credit histories, you will see we try to detail what the card issuer requires from applicants and what you will need to provide as part of your application. We also give each card a ‘credit score’, helping you to see whether it is suited to those with poor credit histories.

Another thing to do is to use the free eligibility checkers that lenders include on their websites. The information you enter will be used to conduct a soft search to see whether you would be eligible for the card. Using an eligibility checker will not affect your credit score.

2. Expect a low credit limit

Credit cards for those with bad credit histories typically have a lower starting credit limit of around £150 to £1,200, depending on individual circumstances. Card providers will see you as a high risk if you have a bad credit score, so they will mitigate that risk by starting you on a low and manageable credit limit.

Some cards will then use an increase in credit limit as a reward for you showing good borrowing behaviour, such as paying your statement in full and staying within your credit limit. Several of the cards on the market have staged increases in credit every four months, dependent on whether you have demonstrated the above behaviour.

It is worth noting your starting credit limit, because if you exceed your limit, not only will you be charged a fee by your credit card provider, but it will also impact your credit score.

3. Look at the APR

Typically, cards designed for those with no credit history or a poor credit history carry a higher APR that other credit cards. However, within the market itself, there will be cards that sell themselves on having a comparatively low APR.

If you are looking to pay off your balance in full in each month, then you shouldn’t be caught out by the high interest charges. Most cards come with a standard 45- to 56-day interest-free period on purchases, provided you pay your balance in full. However, if you are only able to make the minimum payment each month, do be aware of what APR the card carries and therefore what interest will be charged on your remaining balance.

Also look for cards that offer the chance to reduce your APR over time if you display good borrowing practices. Similar to the idea of rewarding borrowers with increased credit limits, some cards will instead reduce your APR in stages provided you stay within your credit limit and pay your monthly balance.

4. You can still earn cashback or rewards

Just because you need a card with which to rebuild your credit doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the perks that credit cards can offer. While they are unlikely to give the biggest rewards on the market, there are cards for those with bad credit histories that have cashback offers, reward points programmes or no fees for foreign transactions.

5. Watch out for introductory periods

When looking at a card for people with bad credit histories, look at whether it offers any interest-free introductory periods for purchases or balance transfers. These offers aren’t typical for this type of card, but they do sometimes appear. The offers will be for a comparatively short amount of time compared with those for cards designed for interest-free purchases or balance transfers, but they could give you that little bit of breathing space.

Just be aware of how long the introductory period is, as if you do not pay off your balance in full before the end of the period you will be charged the card’s standard APR and it could impact your credit score.

6. Look for free credit report services

One of the best ways to improve your credit score is to know what is going on with it. Therefore, maybe consider a card that offers a free credit checking service. This would help you know your credit score and keep you informed of any changes. Services such as Noddle also provide tips and advice for the best way to improve your credit score, as well as access to your full credit report.

7. Be diligent

Your credit score is not going to improve overnight, but try to keep in mind that it will get better if you follow responsible financial habits going forwards.

After about 12–18 months of paying your bill on time and keeping within your credit limit, you should see an improvement in your score. This may mean that you then become eligible to apply for another credit card that offers better benefits.

How to build credit with credit cards

Whether you are trying to improve your credit score or are starting from scratch, here are some ways to use your card that will maximise the benefit to your credit score.

  • Keep your balance low – Yes, you have a new credit card, but don’t be tempted to go on an all-out spending spree. Use your card to demonstrate that you are borrowing responsibly: make sure not to exceed your credit limit and do keep your balance low.
  • Make your monthly payments – Try to pay at least the minimum payment each month. If possible, pay your balance in full, because anything left on the card will incur interest.
  • Be patient – We’re all dedicated to something at the start, but don’t be tempted to slip up and miss a payment or overspend a few months down the line. The more consistent you are with your borrowing behaviour, the more likely your credit score is to improve.

Is a credit card for people with bad credit histories right for you?

To answer this question, you need to take into account your personal circumstances. Things such as being on a low income, being a student, having previously had an IVA (individual voluntary arrangement), a CCJ (county court judgement) or having been previously declared bankrupt could all affect your eligibility when applying for a credit card. Some card providers are also wary of other factors such as not having a permanent UK address or being self-employed.

However, cards designed for those with bad credit histories will often consider your application even if you fall into one of the above categories. If you have been declared bankrupt, though, you often need to wait for a certain period of time before applying for a credit card.

You also need to assess whether you can responsibly manage a credit card. If you can answer yes to both of the following, a credit card may be a good option for you.

  • Will you always pay on time? – Falling behind on payments can have a huge impact not only on your budget (late payment fees are typically £12) but also on your credit score. Once you apply for a credit card, you will need to know that you can make the required payment by the card’s due date.
  • Will you not carry a balance? – You can easily get in financial distress if you don’t pay your balance in full and are therefore charged interest. It is best to be conscious of how much you are putting on your credit card and how much you can realistically pay off each month.

If you have a poor credit history, a credit card could be a useful tool to help you improve it. If you can answer yes to the two questions above and are confident that you can display good borrowing behaviour, then a credit card could provide a launch pad to improve your credit score.

Remember when selecting a card to consider how much you can realistically pay off each month, what interest will be charged on any outstanding balances, any support services the card provider offers, any promotional periods, any chance to increase your credit limit or reduce your APR and any perks such as cashback or reward points. You may not achieve the best of all of these things in one card, but there are several options out there – it’s just a case of selecting which one will best meet your needs.


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