Credit Scores and Credit Cards

What credit score do you need to be accepted for a credit card?

There is no exact credit score you need in order to be approved for a credit card. Lenders all have different credit criteria and a credit approval or decline is not based solely on your credit scores.

It’s important to understand the difference between a credit score and credit report. A credit score is a scale that gives you an indication of the likelihood of getting accepted for credit. You don’t just have one credit score; every credit reference agency has a different scoring system and sometimes completely different data fields. Your credit file shows a potential lender all of your previous credit history and any other lending products that you have now and have ever had over the past six years.

All lenders will check your credit file prior to offering you any new credit facility and take into account a number of factors when deciding whether to provide you with credit or not.  

These may include:

  • Your summary credit score: A lender may use a credit score to automatically screen out individuals with a lower than average credit score, but it’s not the only factor in the decision.
  • Your credit history: Lenders will review your credit report to make sure you have a good repayment history. Many lenders may have metrics that they use to automate this process others may make a manual decision and look in detail at your credit report.
  • Your income: While your income is not a factor on your credit report any lender will require details of this to assess the affordability of any credit that they provide. Sometimes a lender will need to evidence your income in the form of bank statements, tax returns or salary slips. This can be a factor when deciding the total credit limit you’re granted.
  • Your monthly overheads: Credit card applications often want to know about your housing situation: whether you rent or own, and what your monthly payment is. If your rent or mortgage is proportionally high to your income then the amount of any credit limit offered will be low.

Your credit profile can affect which credit cards you can get. Most banks automate their credit card enquiries so it is important to understand which cards you are most likely to be offered prior to applying. A small blip, such as a late payment in the recent past might mean a decline when all other factors in your credit file are excellent. This decline can now adversely impact your credit score. Some banks factor a decision based on the number of credit applications on a borrowers file so it is important to keep applications and checks to a minimum.

What to do if you have been rejected

Pre-approval sites can give you an idea about which cards you are more likely to be approved for based on your credit score. If you have been rejected it’s a good idea to examine your credit file and try to determine the reasons for the decline. If there are no defaults or if there are obvious bad marks then it could be that your earning multiples did not fit the lender’s criteria. It is important to do as much research as possible on any lender prior to submitting a new application and keep rejections to a minimum.

If you have found incorrect information on your file, get it corrected as soon as possible and if you have some bad credit issues it might be better to wait several months before applying for other cards. The older bad credit is the better.

Some credit cards are still available to people with bad credit. Using one of these responsibly can help to rebuild a good credit score. Unfortunately, these types of cards carry a very high interest rate (because the risk level for the lender is higher than average) so it is sensible to only charge purchases to the card that you know you can repay in full the following month. As long as you build credit responsibly, you will maximise your chances of getting approved for a wider variety of cards in the future.

What cards can I get with bad credit?

Different card providers have different credit requirements. You may be approved for one card, but denied for another. Generally, the lower your credit card debt and longer your history of on-time payments with other accounts, the more likely it is you’ll be approved for credit cards with the lowest interest rates and highest credit limits.

Retail store credit cards can be the easier type of cards to get even with bad credit, but they generally have very high interest rates. Bank credit cards can provide the most benefits and rewards but are the most stringent and usually require an excellent credit history.

This table breaks down the types of cards you might be able to get depending on your credit scores, but also remember your income level is also a major factor in the approval decision.






Almost any card from major issuers. Cards with the best rewards programs and benefits.



Decent cards from major issuers,. Cards that earn some rewards


Below average

Cards designed for people with less-than-good credit, usually with no rewards. Retail store cards.



Secured cards, requiring a guarantor. Unsecured cards designed for people with bad credit, which will have very high rates.

Excellent Credit –This means you have the some of the best credit scores in all scoring metrics and a stable, consistently good credit history is available in your credit report. You will also likely have a good mix of the different types of credit including credit cards and loans. Your credit file shows a good record of managing your credit responsibly. Find a credit card provider that gives you the lowest interest rate and the best rewards and benefits you qualify for almost any card from the major issuers.

Good Credit - You will be showing at least two or three years of credit history established on your credit reports with no late payments. You should qualify for many credit cards but remember your income and other factors can also influence the approval decision. With this kind of credit score, the issuers might review closely the total debt you have on existing accounts. This may mean they limit your credit line but you will likely be able to get cards with decent rewards and low-interest rates as long as you use your cards responsibly you will establish more positive credit history over time.

Fair or Average Credit – If you fall into this category you are maybe still trying building a credit history or you have received some bad credit marks in the past. It could also mean you have an existing high borrowing to credit ratio which can be a negative signal to new lenders. If you fall into this credit category then you could consider getting a card which will help you build your credit score to enable you to qualify for better cards in the future. At this level, your options for lenders are limited, try to pre-qualify any application prior to a full application as too many hard inquiries as a result of a decline could make it harder to get approved for cards in the next couple of years.

Retail store cards have higher rates than most other issuers but sometimes have a lower approval criteria, so a store credit card may be another option for you to start building credit if you can’t get approved for other cards.

Bad Credit – This credit profile is for those with considerable negative items including payment defaults, bankruptcies and IVAs .Your goal is probably to try and rebuild your credit so you can establish a better credit profile. There are a number of credit builder cards available so these may be a viable option to start to rebuild your credit score.

No Credit – Commonly students or first-time credit applicants have no credit or a ‘thin file’. There are a number of products on the market to help you build your credit profile but expect to pay higher interest rates.

If you are managing your first credit card and building your credit profile, start by making only small purchases that you know you can pay in full the following month. Build up your credit history by using your credit card responsibly, late or missed payments will damage any rating you are trying to develop