Proof of income – the first step
Proof of income is certainly a factor that most credit card providers will take into account when deciding to give you a credit card and setting your credit limit. It is however only one aspect of all the information they will consider before reaching a judgement about giving you credit. The definition of self-employed could cover any type of work – from freelance writers and IT consultants to builders, plumbers, electricians and florists. In short, anyone who works for themselves.
Assessing your credit history
When you apply for a credit card, personal loan, mortgage, or any other form of credit, the lender will 'credit score' your application using data about your past financial behaviour and how well you managed your borrowings held by Credit Reference Agencies like Experian, Equifax and Call Credit. Using credit scoring the lender will assess your ability to repay, the credit limit that you may get and whether you can afford it.
In that sense, your previous history of how well you’ve managed your debt is important. The days of so called “self certification” – where you simply signed a piece of paper stating you earned so much a year – have long gone, but your employment status may not be as much of an obstacle as you think provided you have managed credit responsibly in the past.
Obviously, a full time PAYE employee with good career prospects will get higher credit score marks than a part time freelancer, but using the same bank for 10 years will gain more points than having an account for just one year. Anything more than three years at your current address also scores well. If you don't score enough points, the lender may decline your application or they may offer you a smaller credit limit than you applied for or charge you a higher rate of interest.
Different lenders use different criteria to decide whether to grant you a credit card. A poor credit score with one institution doesn't mean you’ll get a poor score with all of them. Some lenders accept applications from people who have been turned down by other organisations because they use a different method of credit scoring.
Why was I turned down?
Because each lender has different criteria, there are a number of reasons that you might have run into problems that are not connected with your self-employment. You may well have been turned down because you are unable to prove a regular or high enough income, but there are other factors. If you haven’t managed credit responsibly in the past, been late in making payments or missed them altogether, this information will be stored on your credit record. If you’ve moved house or premises recently or you had lots of different addresses the lender may not be able to verify the address details you’ve given them. Equally, if you do not appear on the electoral roll this could also cause you problems.
How to check your credit report
You can check your own Credit Report for just £2 by using Internet-based services like Credit Expert. This will show you the information about you that lenders see and will also help to detect the early warning signs of identity fraud. If you don’t have access to a computer, you can write to the Credit Reference Agency which must reply to you in seven working days. If the information is wrong you can demand that it is changed or removed (see How to Check Credit Score: A Guide for more details).
Vanquis Bank - looking out for you
With self-employment it’s perfectly understandable that your cash flow may have suffered from time to time while you chase people for money they owe you and this may have had a knock on effect on how well you’ve managed your credit and debt commitments. Late payments may well have been unavoidable and you may even have some CCJs against your name. If you know, or suspect, that your credit score is probably less than ideal, there are still providers that could help you obtain a credit card.
“Poor credit credit cards” providers will still carry out a credit check, but they will take your circumstances into account and are willing to consider people with a credit record that is not squeaky clean. Nothing is guaranteed with these “poor credit” providers, but if you do have adverse data on your credit file they represent your best chance of getting the credit card you want. The interest rates on these “poor risk” credit cards are higher than usual and credit limits tend to be lower, but approaching these specialist lenders is a far better option than risking rejection (which would be marked on your credit report) from mainstream credit card providers. These cards can also help you to build your credit rating back up over time by demonstrating that you can manage credit successfully.
Remember, when you first apply for a credit card you may be asked for certain documents as proof of identity and as evidence that you live at the address you’ve
given. It’s a good idea to have these to hand:
- passport or photo driving licence
- utility bills (gas, telephone or electric)or any letter from an “official” source like the council that has your name and the address you’ve given on it.
This is done partly for the lender’s own record keeping and partly to comply with money laundering regulations (so the lender can be sure you are who you say you are).