If you’re trying to get a credit card in the UK, but have recently moved here from another country, you may be unaware of your eligibility status. Even if you have a good credit history in the last country you lived in, it helps to understand what lines of credit you can take out when you are in the UK.
Here’s more on credit cards for non-UK residents and how to get a credit card in the UK as a new resident.
How to access credit if you're new to the UK
When assessing credit applications, a lender will always run a credit search before making a final decision whether to lend. This is to get an idea of how well you’ve handled credit in the past and the higher your score, the more likely it is that you’ll be approved.
But UK credit reference agencies don't share data with similar agencies overseas, and vice versa, so if you're a new arrival, it's likely you're "invisible" to lenders in the UK – meaning they’ll have no way of knowing how you handle credit.
If a lender has no record of what you're like with money, you might find it more difficult to take out loans and credit cards. This might be the case even if you're studying in the UK and have been here for some time, but haven't tried to borrow money before.
As with anyone who has no credit history in the UK, you’ll need to build one up and should look to do the following:
- Get on the electoral roll – this might not be possible if you’re staying in the UK only for a short time, but if this is the case it might be worth getting in touch with the credit reference agency used by your lender (which will probably be Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) and ask them to add a note to your file explaining why you aren't registered to vote in the UK.
- Look at taking on other forms of credit – signing up to a UK mobile phone contract, which you might be able to do through your current provider, could help to build your credit score.
- Open a bank account – If you had a good credit rating in the last country you lived in, you should contact your previous bank manager there and get them to provide a reference to your local branch in the UK. This may help you to open a bank account, which in turn could help to establish a credit history in this country.
- Pay your bills on time – Paying your mobile phone bill, along with any utility bills – gas, electricity and water – could all work towards improving your credit score.
From here, you may wish to apply for a credit card to help build your credit in the UK. These credit builder cards are available to people with a limited credit history or a poor credit score. If you apply for a Vanquis credit card, we’ll run an eligibility check beforehand to give you a better idea of whether you should proceed with your application.
This check won’t leave a trace on your credit file. However, if you proceed to the full application, we’ll then run a full credit check before making our final decision whether to lend.
Requirements for getting a UK Credit Card
Although any decision to lend is always at the discretion of the credit card provider, you’ll need to at least meet the following minimum requirements before applying:
- You must be at least 18 years old (although some lenders have a higher minimum age)
- You must be a UK resident
- You must not be legally restricted from obtaining credit e.g. because of bankruptcy
Some lenders will also insist that you need to be in full time employment and earning over a certain amount each year, but this can vary between lenders.
Even if you meet the minimum requirements, this is no guarantee that you’ll be accepted.
What if you've had an extended leave from the UK?
If you leave the UK for an extended period of time, your credit rating doesn’t go with you, but any debts you have will remain active. If you leave the country without settling them, or continue to pay them off while you’re away, then this will have a negative impact on your credit score and could see you issued with CCJs for the debts or even declared bankrupt.
If you leave the UK without any debts, then your credit score will gradually drop. The longer you’re away, the lower it will go which can result in you having to start from scratch on your return. This is because having no up-to-date information on your financial habits, lenders won’t be able to assess how much of a risk you are.
If you’re planning to return to the UK to stay at some point, it might be worth keeping some of your bank and credit card accounts open and active. If you’re using a UK credit card while abroad, remember to let your card issuer know to help avoid problems with suspected identity theft. Do bear in mind that additional charges and interest might be applied.
Finding the right credit for you
When looking to take on any type of credit, it’s important to make sure you only apply for products designed for your current circumstances, and from providers who accept applicants in your situation.
If you’re new to the UK and have little or no credit history, this means applying for a credit builder or bad credit credit card, as these are designed for people in your position. But remember to make sure you at least meet the lender’s minimum requirements and use an eligibility checker before you apply.