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Top cards for people with poor credit

If your credit score is less than perfect or you’ve simply never had credit before, a credit-building card could help. Here are our top picks.

When it comes to getting the best credit card deals, or applying for mortgages or loans, people with a less-than-perfect credit history can find their options are limited.

The same can apply to people that have never had credit before.

This is because when you apply for one of these products, a lender will calculate whether you are an acceptable finance risk based on your previous history of borrowing and repaying.

If your credit history has been damaged you may be deemed too great a risk to lend to.

And if you have no credit history, a lender has nothing to base its decision on, meaning you may get declined.

Credit-building cards

But don’t worry, help is at hand.

There is a range of credit cards aimed at those with a chequered history of borrowing and repaying on time who are looking to get their finances back on track.

These are known as credit-building cards. Some are also aimed at first-time cardholders looking to build up their credit score.

Capital One Classic Mastercard

The Capital One Classic Mastercard is aimed at people who have some history of managing credit before.

Applicants that have had defaulted on previous credit agreements, or who have had County Court Judgments (CCJs) issued against them for non-payment in the past, will be considered.

But if you've never had credit your application is unlikely to be accepted, says Capital One. So it’s not a card for first-timers.

Cardholders start with a low credit limit from £200 upwards. But if you show you can borrow and pay back responsibly, you can increase your credit limit up to £1,500.

  • Our verdict

Nerys Lewis is head of credit cards at

She says: "This card is at the top of our best-buy table as it typically has a good conversion rate – meaning it’s one of the best credit-building cards for accepting people.

"Also, many people end up harming their credit history due to bad admin – they simply forget to make a couple of payments, for example.

"But this card has some nice features which can help you stay in control of your finances.

"For example, Capital One will text you five days before your next payment is due, meaning you should never miss a payment again."

Barclaycard Initial

The Barclaycard Initial credit card is aimed at customers who may have missed payments or had CCJs more than 12 months ago.

What’s special about this card is that it comes with a deal where you pay 0 per cent interest on purchases for the first three months.

This could be good if you need to make a big purchase, such as a holiday, as you get some breathing space to pay it back interest-free.

It is also rare for credit-building cards to offer a zero per cent deal, making this card stand out in the market.

After the 0 per cent period ends the APR shoots up to 34.9 per cent, so ideally pay off the balance in full by the end of the three-month period to avoid paying interest.

  • Our verdict

Lewis says: "This month Barclaycard raised the interest rate on the Initial credit card from 29.9 per cent to 34.9 per cent.

"While this looks like a change for the worse, it actually means that more people should be accepted for this credit card.

"And, because the interest rates on all credit-building cards are horribly high, we recommend that you use these cards not for borrowing, but simply to improve your credit score.

"Therefore you should always pay off your bill in full to avoid paying interest – meaning it doesn’t matter what the APR is anyway."

Aqua Advance credit card

The Aqua Avance credit card is open to people with no credit history, making it a good option for people that have never had a credit card before.

A high 34.9 per cent annual interest rate is applied to all transactions to begin with.

But if you keep within your credit limit and make your payments on time, this can drop by 5 per cent each year to 19.9 per cent.

  • Our verdict

Lewis says: "This card is one of the better options for people who have never had credit and are looking to build up a successful track record of borrowing and repaying.

"It’s important to have a good history of borrowing and repaying on time as this will improve your chances of being accepted for mortgages, loans and other credit cards."

Free Card Matcher tool

Credit-building cards can be a great way for people to improve their credit history.

But before you apply, you should look at the lending criteria carefully.

Lewis adds: "While credit-building cards are aimed at people without a credit history or a less-than-perfect record, not everyone is guaranteed to be accepted for a card.

"To check your likelihood of acceptance for one of the credit-building cards before you apply, you can use our free Card Matcher tool."

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Adam Jolley

Adam Jolley

Adam Jolley is a content producer at He joined us in May 2012 from the world of financial services PR.

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