How to choose your first credit card

how to choose your first credit card

The number and different type of options available when you look for your first credit card can be head-spinning – so if you’re applying for one, it’s important to make sure you get one that suits you and can help you build up your credit history.

Where do I start?

When you make an application for credit, the lender will use the data and information held on your credit report, as well as other information within your application and information they may already hold on you, to give you a credit score. They do this so they can work out for themselves if they think you’ll be a responsible borrower, and likely to repay what you owe them. However, if you’ve never had credit before, then lenders may find it hard to tell what kind of risk you are, and whether you’ll pay back the money you owe.

What type of card?

If you’ve never had credit before, you may find it a challenge to get a credit card with the most competitive rates, such as the long-term interest-free purchase deals. There are credit cards that are geared to those with little or no credit history. They are likely to have low credit limits to start with and perhaps a high APR (annual percentage rate). But by using one carefully, and paying off the bill in full each month (for example by setting up direct debits) can help show lenders that you are a reliable borrower. As the months go by and the lender sees you pay it off successfully, you may see your credit limit increase, which can stand you in good stead, for example if you want to get a mortgage in the future.

How can I get accepted if I’ve got no credit history?

You may not have had a credit card before, but there are still ways you can start building a credit history. Above all, lenders are looking for evidence that you can manage credit well – and some simple, common steps to that could be showing that you can successfully manage a mobile phone contract (a form of credit) or a UK bank account.

Also because many providers of household bills like gas and electricity now register information about their customers with credit reference agencies like Experian, simply paying household bills on time could also help strengthen your credit report.

It’s also a good idea to register on the electoral roll, as doing this can show that you are who you say you are, and that you live where you say you live – and can boost your credit score.

It’s possible that your own bank provider may be more willing to lend to you if you’ve shown yourself to be a reliable customer, as they can see first-hand how you’ve managed your finances.

How to choose your first credit card – three key points:

  • Check the card’s main details - For example, what’s the APR (the annual percentage rate – the cumulative rate of interest)? Will you get charged for late payments? Are there any fees? When is the minimum payment due? When is interest charged from?
  • Try not to make more than one application in a three month period – More applications may negatively impact the way a lender views you, as each application for credit is recorded as a ‘footprint’ on your credit report – whether or not you’re accepted. Seeing repeated applications for credit could lead lenders to think that you are a higher risk, and they may take this into account when they make their lending decisions.
  • What’s the credit limit? – It’s likely to be quite low for a first card, so try to make sure you don’t go over it.

Helping find the right deal for you

Experian uses your credit information - as well as information you provide about your requirements and financial circumstances - to show you products that are matched to you††.

This means you can see a list of credit products that you are more likely to be accepted for, and as it is a ‘soft search’ only you can see it on your credit report. For a credit product search that matches your credit information create a .

Experian doesn't give advice on the suitability of products to customer’s needs. If you would like to get help on which products suit your needs, it is best to seek help from a financial adviser.

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